Writer KT Miles on (In) Good Spirits at VAULT Festival
Back in early January we spent some time spotlighted a whole bunch of VAULT Festival shows over on our Twitter channel. One of the many fantastic pieces of artwork that jumped out to us was for (In) Good Spirits. So we were delighted that writer KT Miles found some time to talk with us all things spirits and that fab artwork.
(In) Good Spirits comes to VAULT Festival on 18 and 19 February.
Hi KT, nice to meet you, can you tell us a little about yourself and (In) Good Spirits?
Hey! I’m KT, a nonbinary playwright attempting to bring a show to VAULT Festival while also in my final year at university!! I’m also the show’s Production Manager, which is a colossal but super rewarding task!! (In) Good Spirits asks: what happens to ghosts when the haunted house comes down? We’ve drawn on ideas of residual hauntings, comedies like BBC’s Ghosts and What We Do In The Shadows, and other ghost stories to take a lighthearted look at how a found-family of spirits responds to their derelict stately home being demolished! It’s a design-led work and our debut as a trio (myself, designer Ana Smoleanu, and director Greta Rilletti Zaltieri)! We’re so excited to be bringing it to the Cage later in February!
You describe bringing a fresh take on ghosts, particularly to emphasise queer joy, we’d love to hear more about this?
Yes! The three of us have been so fascinated by the intersection of horror/ghost-stories and queer history and we find that often this exposes a kind of othering. Our intention is to find the joy in the combination of queerness and ghosts, creating intergenerational (inter-time-period?) joy! We find that sometimes fictional ghosts seem stuck in their time period, with Victorian values or overwhelming senses of grief and guilt. We ask why? Why can’t someone who was once a maid discover in the afterlife that she loves leopard print? Why can’t a Victorian woman fall in love with a nonbinary punk? This is the joy we’re looking for in our show!
How does the theme of found family play a role in the story?
It’s central! These four people from completely different worlds have all converged here in this house. They don’t know why, but they know it’s what they need. This family is one that they have chosen to forge together, they develop their routines around each other and ultimately rely on each other to find their way through the threat to their peace. I suppose it’s both a literal found family, and a metaphor for the queer community at large, reaching out to each other through time and knowing we need each other.
You wrote (In) Good Spirits with the support of The National Theatre and presented it in 2022 as a part of Omnibus Theatre’s Engine room, tell us about the journey to bring your show to VAULT Festival?
So this play was written under the mentorship of the incredible Jennifer Farmer, a playwright who I owe everything to. Her guidance as part of the National Theatre’s Writing For Stage scheme has been completely invaluable! I finished the first draft and she told me: this will start conversations. And I thought, well then I need to find a venue to have those conversations! I reached out to Ana, who studies with me on King’s College London’s English BA course, and asked her to work with me to shape the script through design. Greta came to us through an unbelievably fortuitous Tweet of hers and I just fell in love with her ethos and method as a director, and knew she would be just perfect for the project! Together, the three of us got to work! We tested the water with a scratch performance of a second draft at the Omnibus Theatre’s Engine Room in September 2022, and used Ana’s design to create a third version which is what is coming to VAULT Festival!
You’ve said the show is ‘design led’, could you expand on that and just what Ana Smoleanu brings to (In) Good Spirits?
In essence, without Ana’s design there would be no (In) Good Spirits! I gave her the vomit draft and asked her what she would do with it. Her practice is deeply invested in queer utopian futures and that’s what drew me to her for this play in the first place! Her costume and set designs then directly influenced how I approached the subsequent drafts! Certain character motivations have arrived through understanding how Ana envisioned designing and dressing this world and these characters. Our practice gives design the first step, and the writing follows after, inspired by what she does!
We have to ask you about your flyer/artwork, it really jumps out. How did it come together?
That’s all Ana! It came from our first meeting to discuss her design concepts for the script. She was drawn to the elements of non-linearity, lighthearted storytelling and (of course) a grand derelict building, and made some sketches and watercolour paintings in response. This image is one of those! It’s like a puzzle or a comic-book page, you can’t see how big the house really is, or where they are. And, if you look closely, there’s people there. In a nutshell, her artwork is the play!
What is in store next for you and for (In) Good Spirits , do you have more plans for the show after VAULT Festival?
We’re not sure! It’s the first show we’ve ever done as a team, and when they say making theatre is expensive they mean it!! There’s a conversation currently being had about a short transfer, and we’d love to speak to venues! We are considering other London fringe opportunities, we’d love this to not be the end of the show, but nothing is (as of yet) set in stone! So come and see it while you can!!! lol
Finally, do you have any recommendations for other shows to check out at VAULT Festival?
Oh there are so many! We’ve been so pleased to see the success of Butchered, Project Atom Boi, and For a Brief Moment and Never Again Since!
For recommendations, personally I’m beyond excited for:
Liv Ello: SWARM (Greta is Liv Ello’s biggest fan!)
Right of Way
Caligula and The Sea
There are more shows that I’m excited for than I probably have the space to name!! It’s going to be an incredible festival!!
Our thanks to KT for taking the time to chat with us. (In) Good Spirits plays VAULT Festival on 18 and 19 February. Tickets and information can be found here.