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Ali Mylon: “What is it to feel at home, to feel safe?”

With the help of our Patrons, we’ve given one of this term’s grants to actor, musician and writer Ali Mylon, who is developing an original theatre script about home, identity and meeting ‘the other’. We invited Harri Mardlin, director of LifeBox Theatre Company, to speak to Ali about the project’s journey, and what it represents in her own personal and professional life.

We love to support creative professionals who are stretching their ambitions into new places. It’s not easy to do, and it requires support! Join our Patrons scheme for as little as £5/month, and we can give out more micro-grants to artists like Ali, who are articulating important stories for us all.

Answers have been edited for brevity, watch the whole interview above:

Please introduce yourself Ali!

I’m Ali Mylon, primarily an actor-musician, although I work in voiceover as well. I’ve worked in TV, film, theatre, and commercials. I took a music degree, and then in my late 20s contacted the drama school that had offered me a place at 18 – so I retrained at that stage. I’ve been working in the industry for nearly 15 years now.

Tell us about the project that Sputnik is funding.

Several years ago I started making a theatre piece, with music, called Dance With Me. It’s set around the time of the Brexit vote. It’s a story of two people: Annette, who’s a Polish migrant, and Tony, who’s a taxi driver from Sheffield. It’s really a story about their meeting, their friendship, and actually how their friendship draws out of them their needs, their wants, their perception of home and what it means to create a safe environment for their families.

I’m really interested to know how you feel connected to the material, and why you think it’s important to make this work.

At the time of the Brexit vote, I was teaching English as a foreign language, in a class of primarily Polish students. Everything was so heightened then – I saw the impact it had on individuals and the community. At the same time, I came back from London to Sheffield, got a taxi ride and had this really interesting conversation with the taxi driver. It just really struck me that even though on paper the ‘Leave’ and ‘Remain’ vote seemed poles apart, the two characters and their needs and wants were very similar.

I started imagining, what if these two characters met? How would their prejudices impact each other? Could they draw out from themselves what is it to feel ‘at home’? Is it about being in a specific country? Is it about feeling safe? Or is it much more an inward struggle about feeling you’ve ‘arrived’, that you’re at peace?

It’s also a bit of a personal testimony of how I grew as a performer and individual, how I became much more comfortable in my own skin. I feel like I’m actually Ali Mylon, and content and happy to be who I am.

It’s a good place to reach isn’t it?

It is a good place! It’s obviously a work in progress. But it’s that inward battle of just knowing what it is to feel comfortable, and content.

As performers, that can be a real challenge I think.

Because everything out there is so uncontrollable, and constantly shifts. As a performer, 95% of life is about rejection, not getting the jobs, or working out whether something is a good thing for you to pursue, or not. But actually if you’re coming from a place where you feel contentment – that sort of changes everything really.

Who’s your target audience, and why is that?

I’m working with a fantastic director, Sally Proctor. She’s assistant director for the National Theatre, and she’s really passionate about community work, telling stories that are authentic, and truthful.

She really wants us to work closely with the Polish community in Sheffield, but also the working men’s community. So I suppose we want to work in these communities and tell these stories, so that’s a target audience in itself; but also the people of Sheffield, and anyone who wants to hear this story.

The time of Brexit was significant, it heightened things, and maybe those questions that it raised within us are still as relevant today as they were; just maybe they’ve been dampened down a bit.

What would you hope for the future of the piece?

I’d love it to be told in Sheffield theatres, for it to become a production! Obviously I’m aiming high, I’d like it to be taken on by the larger theatres, but I’d be happy for it to be taken on in community centres and smaller venues. I just think it’s a story that is valuable and important to tell.

Follow Ali on the website formerly/still known as Twitter, here.. and become a Patron!