Monday, 1 August 2016

E15: Matt Woodhead @ Edfringe 16

Northern Stage at Summerhall
Aug 6-9, 11-16, 18-23, 25-27 6.30pm

'We want social housing, not social cleansing.' Facing skyrocketing rent and forced relocation out of London, 29 single mothers united to confront Newham Council’s gentrification of their hometown. From the streets of Newham to the Houses of Parliament, this bold and pertinent piece of documentary theatre is adapted from the real-life testimonies of the most under-represented and prominent voices on the political spectrum – providing a truthful retelling of the Focus E15 Campaign, Britain’s housing crisis and how one group of women refused to be marginalised. This is the beginning of the end of the housing crisis.

What was the inspiration for this performance?
The Focus E15 mum's campaign and anyone who is standing up and resisting eviction across the UK. I was born and raised in Sheffield and I noticed that the flats on Park Hill Estate were empty. Residents had been moved out and the whole flats were being redeveloped. The company ran out of money. They couldn't carry on the re-development so they stopped. What was once a 'community in the sky' had gone and there was nothing to replace it. The story of the Focus E15 mums' represents a wider issue and how society treats the most vulnerable and their right to a home. Their fight and resilience is the inspiration for this performance and campaigns across the UK.

How did you go about gathering the team for it?
Helen Monks and I went and collected over 175 hours of interviews from housing activists all over London. All of them wanted to make their voice heard. The team for the show still quickly fell into place after that.

LUNG had just finished a run of 'Chilcot' - a piece of verbatim political theatre about the Iraq Inquiry with Richard Norton-Taylor - so the team for that came back for E15. They couldn't resist ! 

How did you become interested in making performance?
As a theatre company, we are always trying to make 'theatre by communities, for communities, with communities'. We started a community theatre company back in 2012 that provided free theatre workshops for schools in Barnsley and Sheffield that had a lower engagement with the arts than normal. Ever since then we've always been interested in making work with and for non-theatre going audiences. 

Was your process typical of the way that you make a performance?
E15 was a completely different way for us making a show because the material we collected and stories of the Foucs E15 mums is so unique. We're excited to share how an unorthodox rehearsal room translates onto stage and with audiences. 

What do you hope that the audience will experience?
A bundle of fire, energy and anger! 

What strategies did you consider towards shaping this audience experience?
Different story telling devices. From direct address, beatboxing, bold sound and lighting, all these factors feed in to shaping audience experience. Ultimately the number one thing that shapes audience experience in E15 are the words of the Focus E15 mums and their remarkable story. 

Do you see your work within any particular tradition?
People have defined the show at Agitprop, but it's also verbatim and direct address - directly contacting and incentivize the audience to get up and fight! 

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