Yes following up from our opening post we’d like to start as we mean to go on, and get some serious blogging under our belts. You down? Course you are. Let’s begin…So. How to welcome a new project to the fold in a new an interesting way – to adapt it, even (callback about to happen, watch out) we’re going to utilise the classic four-step Who, What, Where and Why of Staging the Nation. Get ready.
Who – we are an all female (yes ladies) conglomerate of creatives brought together by our producer Gaia, who couldn’t even wait until acing her studies to get the ball rolling on starting a major theatrical topical project. Not content with burning new trails, she wondered if some adaptation was in order. Enter Paul Thompson‘s 1974 script written for the National Youth Theatre – By Common Consent – a transient and poignant script that imagined what life would be like for the youth of the future – a hierarchical, patriarchal divided England, by any means possible – male/female, north/south. If only I could get Thompson’s blessing, thought Gaia. Well ask as well as her, and you may receive. A dialogue was opened with the now New York-based Thompson, who seemed pleasantly surprised by the sudden attention on his play By Common Consent as it nearly reaches its 43rd anniversary – nonetheless kindly gave his time and his thoughts on the piece. And we were cooking. In his own thoughts and words, By Common Consent is a ‘political fantasy’ that both Thompson and Gaia agreed was extremely relevant to the current political landscape.
What – As she graduated, Gaia joined forces with the excellent Tonje, a gifted theatre-maker and Artistic director of her own theatre company, and there was a private reading in Elephant and Castle by talented young actors, blowing the dust off a 30 year project, which even in the reading somehow sounded impossibly contemporary and timely to modern audiences. We knew we were kinda onto a good thing here. The reading was an excellent success, with no small measure of attention and talent on display thanks to word of mouth on social media. Creatives and playwrights alike were invited to come and listen, and then adapt the play. Gauntlet thrown, the dynamic twosome were pleasantly surprised by the quality and quantity of the responses. This was proof, if ever needed, Staging the Nation was on the right track. Eventually, Gaia and Tonje narrowed it down to two very contrasting responses: one that was wildly creative and the other, traditional. Staging the Nation, by now had quite the double bill on their hands.
Where – The nature of British theatre, since the 90s especially, is characteristically keen on new writing – without them we wouldn’t have stalwarts of classic modern theatre: Sarah Kane, Mark Ravenhill, Anya Reiss – and so we at Staging the Nation started in earnest to seek submissions and openings at theatres all over, garnering no small measure attention. However, as any pro knows, in this industry it’s vital to keep moving, especially as decisions are slow – and so there was a day long session at Theatre N16 in Balham, where all the creatives involved with Staging the Nation, as well as four very talented, open and brave actors were invited. Here we made invaluable connections to the work, to each other, to the salient and basic points of the original text and Paul Thompson’s vision….as well as having enormous fun into the bargain. Tonje’s open house policy of play + discussion+ improv was an irresistible afternoon of creativity – there were no limits. Finally we got to see what a Staging the Nation production would look like. And we weren’t disappointed.
Why – Ah, the biggie. Well, as Staging the Nation suggests, we are keen to explore the voices of dissent that go against a status quo – in the shadow of the referendum, of Brexit, of the rise of ‘other’ as a bad word, surely this is a case of history repeating. As we discovered in our rehearsed readings, rehearsals, discussions and in the many fantastic responses we received – the idea of the same issues and prejudices rising and falling in the 20th century, into the 21st, never go away. We at Staging The Nation want to give voice to that in different ways – and we feel our chosen pieces reflect that – one focuses on a group of young men at the crux of their young lives, transitioning into manhood and how the older generation use them; the other commenting on the purely human trait of self-preservation, individualism – especially in the circumstances and set our devilishly clever writer has put them in. Think the Crystal skull, only much much worse.
Really to put it bluntly, we wanted to make theatre that was important to us, relevant, necessary and personal to us all individually as well as in a group. A thinking man, woman and child’s theatre with something important to say, not just an enjoyable night out at the West End. And with crew, director, producer and writers like these, we can’t wait to see where it takes us.
Man are we excited. 🙂
Have a great Sunday!
Jess x (don’t worry, you’ll meet me on here – soon…)