Working in the community has a variety of connotations and benefits for artists. As a writer and theatre director, I know that at the heart of each performance is a circular conversation between maker, interpreters (actors/designer etc) and the audience. I am also aware that the quality of synergy in this conversation determines the smoothness of the planning, making/writing and production process.
There are things about working on a community-based commission that particularly throw light on this conversation. Giving birth is a complicated thing (I imagine), but when all the internal and external mechanics are working together, it happens with natural force and impact – boom!
Thanks to funding from Peterborough Presents, a member of the Creative People and Places project, and Peterborough City Council, I have been working on the ‘Verbatim GREEN-SPACE Play Project’ since November 2016.
A verbatim show in an outdoor setting is a delicious prospect for someone developing scripts in textural and structurally playful ways. Partnering with WestRaven Big Local, The Olive Branch Garden and The Green Backyard, with support from PECT, I have just completed stage one of an interview gathering, scripting and production journey for scratch/work-in-progress performances in June 2017.
In this context, unlike collaborating with a theatre or arts centre, your partners and part-interpreters (interviewees) are your audience. The through-line of developing that base of ticket-buying and marketing support begins on day one, with the first interaction.
To date, I have collected over 12 audio-recordings of interviews with GREEN-SPACE users with the aim of using interviewee’s words to make a 45 minute docu-drama or ‘verbatim’ show. But there’s an aim in itself with these recordings. Our chats have formed an online archive on the StreamLyric.co.uk ‘NewsFlow’, which I hope might be used in 22nd Century Peterborough by students clad in, as yet, uninvented fibres, to track a pivotal era in the city’s development.
An ‘Environment City’ could easily be considered a contradiction in terms. So it feels worthwhile to explore what this means. From the human perspective, there are definite recurring themes across these interviews, not least desire for extended family/surrogate community and random ‘play.’
As we know, casual conversation, albeit recorded, is a good vehicle for striking truths. Time and time again, interviewees have spoken of their motivation to connect with others in activities where performance is not measured and acceptance is a core value of the environment.
Volunteers have typically encountered these spaces during periods of transition when identity is being reaffirmed or redefined. It is no surprise that the bubbles of calmness which facilitate this are dense with organic matter and low with technological communications. If churches were once the go-to safe-haven for the mind, perhaps urban green space is a substitute in a secular and multi-faith UK.
Performances of ‘The Verbatim GREEN_SPACE Play’ in association with Stream-Lyric will take place on June 3rd and 4th at WestRaven Big Local and The Green Backyard respectively. Keep up-to-date on www.streamlyric.co.uk / @stream_lyric / @StreamLyric
Written by Tamsin Flower, writer and theatre director.