In this blog post, Rebecca McCutcheon gives us an insight into Town Hall and its themes of changing the world in a catastrophic state.
Moving towards the end of our R&D with Town Hall, this morning we’ll run together all we’ve done so far and explore its rhythms and surprises, where it’s clear, and think about the how of the many moments when we will be with our audience for the first time, in just two days, on Sunday 16th. This is maybe the biggest unknown here: what is the conversation this intriguing and incredibly urgent piece will spark when we and they come together as an us?
I’ve been excited about Town Hall since the first moment I read it. I’d worked on a fragment of Caridad’s piece Upon the Fragile Shore for an event on human rights for Peace Brigades International. I knew her voice has a capacity to speak so directly to the human moment in performance, and she is, always, constantly writing to the present in the best sense: with concern for our world, with a passionate empathy, and with a lucid understanding and experimentation with theatre, performance and form.
Our process has reflected this engagement and experiment. We’ve interrogated the text and researched around its themes. We’ve also sung Nina Simone and the Beatles, danced with plastic cups, and laughed, a great deal. We’ve felt optimism about the possibility of change, and theatre’s place in that.
The piece is set in a notional future which hints at both catastrophic disaster and a slow waking up to a profoundly changed world, slid into through a drift of powerless trust in processes (democratic, ecological) and realising too late, that these are broken. Four ordinary people, in our case, women, step into a room, with the ‘us’ of the audience, and try to think about how we might heal, find better, more just ways of being. If this sounds heavy and difficult, sometimes it is maybe, but it is central to Caridad’s voice to place lightness, joy, humour and the everyday, in the heart of this. More than many writers, in Caridad’s work is a deep empathy, a willingness to engage in the ‘real’ of climate grief, of alienation and marginality, and the need for change and better representation. If there is any space in London which can embrace us, Camden People’s Theatre is the one.
We’ve made the piece for the basement at CPT. If you know the theatre, you’ll know this is a very specific choice. The basement at the CPT feels municipal, feels like a meeting room, in the best way, not soulless but a space of potential and of collaboration. It is a space where no one sits in the dark to watch, but where we are all acknowledged and present. This is an important difference, which felt essential for this. And don’t worry, not because we will be asking anyone in the audience to perform with us, but because this ‘play’ blurs the line between its subject (an imagined post-apocalyptic town hall meeting) and its form (how is performance, all performance, quintessentially participatory, requiring something of its audience, even if that something is conditioned passivity)? What other forms might we imagine (for performance, yes, but more importantly, for participation in politics, the social)? I hope this sounds intriguing, it’s certainly fired and driven our process so far, and on Sunday, we’ll be asking our first audience to help us move forward through conversations and feedback. There are some tickets still available, so please come if you can.