A Profile of Dinos Aristodou, Writer in Residence at Mayflower Theatre by Sophie Jones

Dinos Aristodou held the residency at the Mayflower Theatre until March, focusing heavily on the themes of migration, and Southampton’s nautical history. His experience prior to the residency had mostly been gained in writing and directing for the stage, so a residency at the Mayflower Theatre was an obvious fit. Throughout his year as Writer in Residence, his blog charts his acceptance into the world of the Mayflower Theatre, up until he is able to “feel completely at home and comfortable” there, and he uses the blog to encourage other Writers in Residence to “become a part of the organisation” during their residency.

“A residency not only places you in a particular place but also resides within you. In order to truly remember, you should live the moment and not record it.”

His initial idea was to create a logbook, representing “the organisation, this cultural building as a ship,” and the knowledge of Southampton’s nautical history pervades his blog, for example as he describes the crowd in the foyer moving “like waves or like shoals.” Aristodou even sent a survey around the staff of the theatre asking them ‘In what ways do you think Mayflower Theatre is like a ship?’ However, towards the end of the residency, he “recognised that [his] experiences at the theatre didn’t, in fact, follow the sequential and chronological pattern of a logbook.” In fact, it was the word ‘residency’ itself that inspired Aristodou to write about his “own residency, my family’s history and the journeys they had embarked on as immigrants to become resident in Britain.” His experiences holding workshops with children, and observing younger audience members at relaxed performances gave him the desire to keep the writing form “playful,” and, to mirror the residency’s aim of “engaging audiences, inspiring young writers, working in the community,” create a piece of work that would encourage “reflection, discussion, or creative writing.”

He decided on a “deck of cards,” playing with language, “a deck suggesting not only cards but also a ship and a theatres’ stage.” The cards can be read three ways: by suits, with each suit presenting “one individual but interconnected narrative,” including an “imagining of my family story” and “an account of my residency at Mayflower Theatre”; by number/character, where “all the numbers and characters from each suit are connected sometimes through language, idea, or narrative”; randomly, “as a fragmented collage of inspirations and experiences”; or used as “prompts either for reflection, discussion, or for writing.”

Another one of his projects during his time as Writer in Residence was the Writing as Gift, writing personalised messages on paper folded into a paper boat, and then given out at the Theatre on select performance nights. He later used this idea to inspire a school workshop, at Wellow Primary School, and the school are now considering developing the programme into a whole school initiative. On the experience of the residency itself, Aristodou says that he has “encountered and considered both my identity and my work as a writer” through his time at the Mayflower Theatre, and Aristodou will now join Nazneen Ahmed, Writer in Residence at Southampton’s libraries, in being a part of Mayflower 400, held in 2020 to commemorate the 400th anniversary of the maiden voyage of the Mayflower ship, working on the development of a new musical.

During Aristodou’s residency, the three Writers in Residence were able to perform together. “I found the other writers’ work so engaging, inventive and so resonant, and that we were together as three writers in residence felt like an honour,” says Aristodou. To hear from Aristodou’s fellow Writers in Residence, Nazneen Ahmed and Iain Morrison, come along to our Book Launch event on Sunday 4th November – tickets are available here.

You can read Aristodou’s blog in full here, and learn more about Ahmed and Morrison here and here.