January 15th, 2015
As a general election looms and discussions rumble on as to how this spring’s televised debate will be framed and whose ideas will be presented to the nation, it’s an exciting time to be making a show about how citizens imagine and create their future. The Town Meeting is, or will be, exactly that: an interactive show in which the audience becomes the populace of the crisis-stricken Little Rikjord, summoned together for a crunch assembly on the biggest question the town has ever faced.
In collaboration with Dr Paul Cowie from Newcastle University’s department of Architecture, Planning and Landscape, we’re exploring his research interests of representation and legitimacy. Paul is actively engaged in understanding and shedding light on the processes by which a community represents itself during planning. At its most basic, he investigates how decisions which make a material difference to our everyday lives are made – decisions about whether and where supermarkets are built, how parks are designed and what we prioritise in the organisation of public space.
As theatremakers, these issues have struck us as being immediately relevant, compellingly contentious and beautifully suited to interactive work. We’ve been playing with ideas and questions about interactivity and the rules of engagement; the clarity of our invitation to an audience; our audience’s relative freedom (or not) of decision making; and how we might encourage an audience to invest emotionally in an entirely fictional town and its residents’ livelihoods.
Our rehearsal room has been one of ideas, excitement and ambition. The four of us – producer Katy, actor and writer Brad, Paul and I – have been co-creating together, making the structure of the piece as rewarding as possible for our audience and forming a colourful and vivid picture of our sleepy, isolated, snow-covered town. We’re also excited to welcome our designer, Rhona, to bring her creative eye to the work and make this process even richer. Ultimately, the show’s direction and conclusion – and that of Little Rikjord – will be entirely dependent on each audience. We look forward to handing you the reins later this year.
The Town Meeting is part of a collaboration between Cap-a-Pie and Newcastle University – Performing Research. Performing Research is funded by Newcastle University via the Engagement Fund and supported using public funding by the National Lottery through Arts Council England. The programme is supported by Newcastle Institute for Creative Arts Practice.