Jayden Reid Talks … High Times and Dirty Monsters

High Times and Dirty Monsters,’ is the new hip-hop show by Liverpool-based 20 Stories High.

In collaboration with national partners, the production features Deaf, disabled, and neurodivergent artists, providing a glimpse into the experiences of being young and disabled in 2023. From heavy beats and stunning visuals to integrated British Sign Language (BSL), creative captioning, and audio description, High Times and Dirty Monsters aims to offer a diverse and inclusive experience.

We spoke to some of the cast and crew involved in bringing this groundbreaking production to life …

Please introduce yourself …

My name is Jayden Reid. I am a young Deaf Black actor and dancer, I was born and raised between London and Newbury. I attended Mary Hare School boarding school (a school for Deaf children and young people). I discovered my love of acting at school, and decided to do Performing arts and since then have developed a huge passion for it whilst I navigated a mix of emotions and identity being raised in a hearing world.

Why High Times and Dirty Monsters?

High Times and Dirty Monsters came to me through my agent. I’ve worked for TV before, so I wanted to try out theatre. I think my biggest challenge was learning lines. Growing up I had always feared theatre but when I heard that the idea was a hard-hitting show about disability and neurodivergence I went for it. Especially as I’ve personally faced barriers and difficulties because of my Deafness. I wanted this show to have an impact on not just the audience, but to the government and to those who don’t understand the importance of inclusion.

Tell us about your character and what their goal is in this project … 

My character Jamal is a Deaf man who has a child at a young age whilst suffering from depression and anxiety. He often thinks he’s “not good enough dad” to Angel, his daughter with his girlfriend Maya. His goal is to build a happy relationship between himself and the family he and Maya have created.

Jayden Reid – Credit: Jack Ehlen

Tell us about working with your fellow cast …

The cast are full of absolute amazing people. I enjoyed every moment of being with them – the pranks, the games and the talks we all have. Billy, Joséphina, Maisy, Grace and Chandu are all lovely people and are easy to work with. We had conversations about what we each needed so we could all be fully accessible and understanding. I never once felt excluded.

What does the story of  High Times and Dirty Monsters mean to you personally?

High times and Dirty Monsters to me, is a breakthrough story to the people around us, the crowd and the government, as it speaks about so many things including the political state, friendship, family and the system. This show helped me understand not just about Jamal’s story of depression and anxiety but of others and the struggles that each character faced. Especially after countless conversations with many young people who were all a foundational part of the show.

Tell us about a challenging moment during this project that you had to dig deep to get through it?

The challenges were trying to not include too much of our personal life into our monologues. During our rehearsals we had to figure out the fine line between our reality and a story that is being told by us. Sometimes the subject could get touchy for us and it was definitely figuring out how to communicate that. But thankfully it went smoothly as we always supported each other and made sure that we all felt comfortable.

Tell us a memorable moment?

On the day when we had a first full run through, the nerves and the excitement were all over the place. It was the day I felt that I needed to show what I could do as an actor. We had all worked on our parts separately, sometimes only seeing a part of the development of each other’s stories. The run through was the very first time we saw it all together. It was definitely exciting hearing everyone’s stories and watching them was just simply art. It was such a pleasure to be working with everyone in the room.

Joséphine-Fransilja Brookman, Billy Pearson, Chandu Gopalakrishnan, Maisy Gordon, Grace Savage, Jayden Reid – Credit Jack Ehlen

What best defines what you love about this project?

I actually love Jamal’s story and the character himself because a part of me felt happier and more at peace knowing that a fraction of my personal story is being told to the audience. I feel attached to this project because of how truthful and transparent it is. I feel that without High Times and Dirty Monsters, there’ll still be things that I don’t understand within neurodiversity and disability.

High Times and Dirty Monsters tours throughout October and November being in so many different places in such a short time, do you have any rituals that you do to maintain a sense of self or a sense of home that you take with you?

I like to get to the accommodation, have a nice meal out and see the city I’ll be performing in. I like to explore and feel the environment and energy of the place and then use that energy to perform. I also like to sit down and think about my future goals and ambitions to manifest it as much as I can and then prepare for the days to come.

Considering your career evolution, where does this project sit on your checklist?

My career goal is to encourage more Deaf people into the world of arts. I find that within the Deaf community not a lot of Deaf people are confident to barge into a world of creativity. With this show, I want to inspire young Deaf children and adults to connect with one another. With this show, I put in a lot of work to make sure I do the best I could, to show the most I can, to take pride in who I am and show many people that Deaf can do it.

What’s next?

I hope to get more jobs on screen and in theatre. I’m always looking to try out new things and experiment many different roles to build myself as a person as well as an actor.

How do we keep up to date with you and your work?

Instagram – realvib3s where I post on stories about my life and the jobs I do.

High Times and Dirty Monsters tours until November 25th. Find out more here.


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