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Zoom premiere for play inspired by life on a Havering council estate

PUBLISHED: 07:00 19 November 2020

Darrel Draper. Picture: Jason Mitchell

Darrel Draper. Picture: Jason Mitchell

Jason Mitchell

An actor and playwright is preparing to hold a Zoom premiere of a play inspired by his Havering upbringing.

Darrel Draper’s three-person play, Dust and Such, is set on a countil estate and draws on his own experiences of growing up in the borough.

The 30-year-old aims to inspire and support people in the community who are interested in the arts to break the taboos of social class within acting.

He said: “I want to provide young people with backgrounds like me the chance to climb over the industry hurdles quicker. To give them a paid credit and to open more doors for them.

“This is about showing people that there’s a space for arts from Havering, low economic backgrounds, that’s where I’m from. I don’t want people to feel like their background and where they’re should stop them.

“I think there a lot of people who love the arts but may not feel like it’s not for them because of where they come from.”

Written by Darrel earlier this year, Dust and Such follows the relationships between Beth, her 16-year-old daughter V and Alfie, the 17-year-old son of

a feared dead villain from the estate, Kyle Jenkins.

Due to Covid restrictions, the play - which was expected to take place before Christmas at MyPlace - will be performed by the cast from their homes to a 100-person Zoom audience of local residents.

Darrel said: “I’ve had to make this now a digital performance which actually helps because beforehand at the venue we could only have an audience of 30 people but now we can take it to 100 on Zoom.”

Committed to diversifying the arts, Darrel added that the cast will include three people from the community who are not professional actors and are of low socio-economic backgrounds.

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He said: “I see a lot of plays dealing with issues of lower class and most of the time they’re written by someone from a middle-class background and performed by people from a middle-class background and I feel like it lacks authentic representation.

“So I want to pave the way for working class voices on stage.”

Dust and Such mirrors themes of Darrel’s upbringing on a council estate and his working class background with the aim to provide a play which reflects some of the lives of those within the community.

He grew up as an only child, spending time between his parents’ houses in Harold Hill and Collier Row.

Having been exposed to heavy substance abuse around him at a young age and difficulties concentrating at school from his undiagnosed ADHD, Darrel explained that his love for the arts was his ultimate escape.

One of his earliest acting memories was his role as the Tin Man in his primary school’s production of Wizard of Oz, dressed in a costume made by his father.

After taking up drama lessons whilst at Havering College, Darrel went on to study theatre arts at Middlesex University.

Dust and Such is also inspired by Darrel’s difficult relationship with his estranged late father, who was an alcoholic who suffered from mental health problems and died from alcohol poisoning when Darrel was at university.

Throughout Darrel’s career as a professional actor he has reflected on the industry’s challenges regarding diversity and felt that he was a social outcast shunned by other auditionees and panellists for his accent and when he mentioned that he was from Romford.

This emboldened his commitment to providing community theatre reflective of the people in the area.

Dust and Such, which is also supported by Havering Changed, was granted funding from the Arts Council at the end of last month.

Darrel hopes to hold Dust and Such’s first Zoom performance before December to provide the community with a sense of hope during a testing year.


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