April 10th, 2015
The third week of rehearsals for The Town Meeting is drawing to a close, and we’re preparing to invite a public audience into the work for the first time. I’m excited about this for a number of reasons.
There’s a siginificant element of unpredictability in the show – we’ve left space for the audience not just to bring their ideas, thoughts and responses to the work, but to become active collaborators who make decisions (individually and as a group) which will make every performance of the show different. This will be particularly intriguing once The Town Meeting starts touring. The show has a strong local focus, and I’m looking forward to seeing how ongoing and historic issues in Newcastle, Wooler, Sheffield, Amble, Newbiggin and South Shields influence the ways in which audiences in those cities, towns and villages interact with the show.
Where I live in Sheffield, for example, despite a petition signed by over 20,000 people the decision has just been taken by the council to allow the demolition of a row of shops in the so-called independent quarter which includes the much-loved book and record shop Rare and Racy. Labour councillor Leigh Bramall is on record as saying that “although technically [the council] make the decision on planning applications, our hands are tied by the stringent planning laws set out by the government.
It is against this backdrop that The Town Meeting has been created – one in which much rhetoric is given to communities having an influence in local matters but where (anecdotally) people often feel frustrated and disempowered. Decisions such as the one affecting Rare and Racy and that faced by our audience in The Town Meeting are not just important because of what they represent in terms of democracy and power, but because they have real and often irreversible affects on the places where we live and, as a result, on our lives.
Finally, like everything I’ve made with Cap-a-Pie, The Town Meeting has felt like a real team effort. Paul, Katy, Brad, Rhona and me have shared a vision from the very start for how the show should look, feel and work and, more importantly, of how that vision can best be realised. It’s been a joy to bring our different skills and perspectives together in the rehearsal room, and to make a piece which is more than the sum of its parts. This week our rehearsals have also been hugely enriched by having Rhona’s set in the room. Playful, inviting and deceptively simple, it evokes a strong sense of the location in which the play occurs – the isolated, delapidated but hugely important Community Centre which lies at the heart of Little Rikjord. We look forward to inviting you in.