By DAMIAN LE BAS
"She's got some attitude, but she's a nice girl" - Kavanagh Rose Rattigan, pictured, on her character Crystal in Crystal's Vardo. Picture: Jessie-Rose Clifford
CRYSTAL'S Vardo is a play with a heart, and it's got an important job to do: to show people just how deep the roots of Romany and Traveller history go.
Travellers' Times spoke to the play's writer Suzanna King, and to the actress Kavanagh Rose Rattigan, who stars as Crystal in the play.
"Crystal's Vardo is about a young Gypsy girl who's been bullied at school," says writer Suzanna.
"Crystal runs away from home, but she runs away with her grandfather's vardo and pony, gets lost and finds herself in a school which is rather like the school she ran away from!
"She has to trust the schoolchildren- the audience- in order to find her way back. She tells the story of who she is, and as she does that their vardo goes back in time," says Suzanna.
"They travel back to about 4900 AD in northern India, right through Traveller history, and eventually they find their way back."
Crystal's journey takes her "right through Traveller history", says writer Suzanna King. Picture: Jessie-Rose Clifford
Star of Crystal's Vardo, Kavanagh Rose Rattigan is 20. She studied acting at school and college.
"Ever since I was a young girl I’ve always wanted to become an actress," says Kavanagh Rose.
"It’s been amazing opportunity, I can’t describe how fantastic it’s been to have the opportunity to be Crystal.
"She reminds me of myself quite a lot when I was younger, she’s just down to earth, she’s got some attitude but she’s a nice girl. She’s quite cocky and sassy, but she’s likeable!" says Kavanagh.
"It’s been fantastic working with [fellow actors] Cara and Neil, I think it’s opened their eyes to a lot of Traveller history and stuff.
"They didn’t know anything before and I think they’ve really enjoyed themselves.
"There’s loads of music, we’ve got the song Go Move Shift, we’ve got loads of sound effects, authentic Indian Gypsy music," says Kavanagh.
Romany Gypsies and Irish Travellers are recognised ethnic minorities in the UK. Yet there is still a lack of understanding of these peoples, and their languages have no recognition in the law. So what's been the reaction to a play that puts Traveller history centre stage?
"All the feedback has been so positive. We’ve had people say that they can’t believe this is happening, how much they enjoy the show, they want it to travel worldwide," says Kavanagh.
"I was stunned by the amount of racism and bullying in schools", writer Suzanna King said. Picture: Jessie-Rose Clifford
Suzanna explains that the play is taking to the road this summer. "We’re taking bookings at the moment for June, we’ve had quite a lot of enquiries, Redbridge Drama Centre at the end of June; Bristol, Nottingham and Bromley, and hopefully another one in Brighton as well," she says.
Crystal's Vardo has also been performed in front of prisoners and students of an agricultural college in Plumpton. "We want to explore different audiences, not just children," says Suzanna.
"Crystal’s Vardo will be on the road for the foreseeable future," she says. "We're applying for long term funding as well." Here's hoping Crystal's road keeps winding on!
For more information about Crystal's Vardo or to make a booking, go to http://www.gypsy-traveller.org/crystals-vardo/