For our latest blog, director Robert Daniels talks about redefining heroes/heroism and empowering their audience to stand up to oppression.
This is a work in progress. Not because it’s not finished. But because it will never be finished.
This began 5 years ago. The began 3 years ago. This began 1 year ago. This began 6 months ago. This began last weekend.
Every time we do this show it’s different. It’s written anew. With new people, new stories, new issues, new audiences. But always the same beginning: What is a hero? What is heroic? Who are the villains? How can we make a change?
5 years ago I was reading a book called The Lucifer Effect. It’s about the nature of evil, and in turn; the heroic. Brexit was on the horizon, Austerity in full force, and a world reeling from the aftermath of the War on Terror…to name just a few of what we – like many – felt to be a turn toward something…well…I’m sure you felt it too. The book explains how natural (and easy) it is to become ‘evil’, and proposes we find new ways to combat this issue. He suggests that (if) the ability to be evil is so easy, then so to should the ability to be heroic.
I got the chance to meet Professor Zimbardo (author of The Lucifer Effect, renowned psychologist, and director of the Heroic Imagination Project), and began a correspondence that led to Bootworks working with The Heroic Imagination Project’s mission, and making a show. As we do.
3 years ago we were starting all over again with a group of emerging artists. We started afresh too. Each tenet and principal developed from the original research and devising recontextualised, and reworked so the new collaborators could voice their own views and ideas, and define their own style and approach.
1 year ago Curtis and Froud took the baton, and wiped the slate clean. They wanted to use the format and forum to voice a very specific issue and aspect of the wider theme. It was also a chance for them to work together, finally, after years of missed chances.
Little did they know that was a rabbit hole that was only going to get deeper, and deeper…and deeper.
6 months ago we were working with a groups of 16 year olds, and re-devising the whole thing, yet again, in just one day. The students from Budmouth College met us at 10 am that morning, and by 6pm they were performing to the public. That by itself was a heroic feat!
Last weekend we were in the studio. Playing through some new material. Recent events…or maybe non-events (the result is still unknown at the time of writing this!)…meant we had to revise and review the content.
Some of this show is so new we’re reading from an autocue.
This show sits on the razor edge of failure. Its precariousness is as delicate and fragile as the world and environment it speaks about. It’s a broken show for a broken society. It’s a broken biscuit (you’ll see why on Wednesday).
It’s unfinished, and so too are its issues and solutions. It will always be unfinished, because the fight might never end.
Even when this show is long dead, we’ll still be carrying its mission and legacy. This pilot marks only the first outing for this stage of the project, and our hope is to work with other emerging artists and young people; and build on the Heroic Imagination Project’s wider mission.
We’re looking for new partners and groups, and are particularly interested in working internationally, and taking the mission to more marginal communities. This show, and the wider project, is rooted firmly in empowering young people to speak out and voice their thoughts, fears, and desires on the society, culture and world they live in. To redefine heroism and make it more relevant for a 21st century world. The aim is to redefine the way we look at heroes and heroism (in turn; villains and villainy), and empower each to stand up to oppression and become more socio-centric: developing a network of ‘heroes-in-waiting’. We celebrate the little instances of heroism in our own lives; revere the people we hold up as our role models and inspiration, and remember those who fight in the name of liberty and freedom for everyday folk like you and I.
The climate strikes around the world are testament to the importance of young people and the future: and – crucially – what we all do to ensure they are equipped, able, and willing to make a change (finally!). Young people are the reason why the government is resisting a second referendum on Brexit too: they all couldn’t vote last time…but my god they will now.
Part of that process involves addressing the main culprit: not ‘villains’, per se, but the system itself, and the “Bystander Effect” this system develops in us all.
In tackling this we try to identify the issue (or the ‘villain’), the modes in which we can overcome the risk or danger, and – most importantly – find ways to stand together and fight villainy…whether that’s the “big bad” of imperialist, neoliberal, new-wave-facism, or everyday issues: tackling bullying, or developing community cohesion, for instance.
It’s also about calling out those villains: naming and shaming them: confronting our fears. And ultimately revering our heroes.
And how that happens is always unknown. This version is Froud and Curtis’ version. This is their perspective on the whole thing. What comes next is up to who, and what, comes next. Each version of this show will continue to be steered and directed by the core mission of the Heroic Imagination Project, but its content and themes will be shaped and positioned by the participants critical and creative voice. With each new group, the content will change again: re-written, produced, and devised anew; allowing the new cast to present their unique cultural, gendered, generational, and personal experiences, and build on the wider mission.
This is the beginning of something much bigger than a show, or even you or I.
Who is your hero? This show is for them.
Hope to see you Wednesday.
Rob / Bootworks
More information on the show can be found on our website: bootworkstheatre.co.uk
For more information on the underpinning themes and issues, including education and research materials on the Heroic Imagination Project, go to:
Join the social mission and become a Hero-In-Waiting!
This project was developed with support from The Point Eastleigh, Redbridge Drama Centre, b-side festival, The British Council, The University of Chichester, and was funded by Arts Council England.
Originally written and devised by the company with Nick Walker
Residency / Collaborative project, and stage version (2019) written and performed by Curtis and Froud with animation and videography by Georgina Rose.
Directed by Robert Daniels
The pilot performance was developed with graduates from the University of Chichester (cast): Mohammed Abdurrahim, Curtis, Natasha Dockerill, Froud, and Chantelle Walker
Special thanks to: Roxanne Carney, Molly Scarborough, Nick Walker, Sophia Walls, Emily Walsh, and Dr Philip Zimbardo, and The Heroic Imagination Project team.