Moving play about ‘conscious cruelty’ shown towards people in temporary accommodation comes to Hornchurch
PUBLISHED: 15:00 17 October 2018
Sarah Lee - 07930392407
A National Theatre play inspired by the struggles of people living in temporary accommodation is coming to the Queen’s Theatre.
Alexander Zeldin’s play, Love, premiered at the National Theatre to critical acclaim in late 2016, and it now transfers to the Queen’s Theatre.
In a city where more than 50,000 households are living in temporary accommodation, three families find themselves without a home.
A middle-aged man and his elderly mum, a young family with a baby on the way and a newly arrived woman from Sudan find themselves forced to live together.
Nick Holder, a member of the cast, told the Recorder: “We see a group of individuals looking for what anybody is looking for in a home - solitude, peace, comfort and security.
“About three and a half years ago we received a document from Shelter, documenting the plight of families living in temporary accommodation at Christmas and that set off our imagination.
“We then went around the country meeting people in living in these conditions and we worked with people who were either victims of posterity, refugees or working class families - people who have fallen through the cracks in the system which are getting wider.”
The cast continued to work with the people they met while they rehearsed for the play.
“We didn’t want the National Theatre just to steal people’s stories, that just seemed morally wrong,” said Nick.
“Instead, we kept in contact with them and make them part of the process. We took their initial stories and testimonies and invited them into the rehearsal room.
“For about 12 to 15 months we improvised in rehearsal rooms and filmed all of the rehearsals. We then edited this down to form the play.”
Nick is reprising his original role as Colin. His character is based on a man he met in Birmingham who was living with his 80-year-old mother.
He said: “We thought we knew about posterity and the failure of the welfare system, but what we knew was nothing in comparison to what we encountered.
“What we actually witnessed from various councils was a wilful disregard for people’s welfare.
“There are unfortunately certain sectors of society you are able to push around more than others. As dramatic as that sounds, that was the reality that we encountered time after time - a conscious cruelty towards certain people.
“It had a huge effect on the entire cast. Two years on [from the first performance] and we are still reeling from the encounters we had.”
The Queen’s Theatre is transforming its auditorium to create a unique and intimate experience for the performance.
Nick explained that the audience are part of the performance and experience the events of the play with the characters in real time.
Love will continue the National Theatre’s partnership with the Queen’s Theatre established through Theatre Nation.
“People always consider the National Theatre audience to be middle class, but that is changing under the National Theatre’s artistic director.
“It’s part of why we’re coming to Hornchurch despite funding cuts, because the National Theatre should still be supporting regional theatres.
Speaking to the man who inspired his character, Nick asked what love meant to him.
“The guy said, I think it’s that thing that when every bit of logic in you and every good sense you have is telling you that you should give up and leave - love is when you stay and hold onto each other despite everything else,” said Nick.
“I think that’s what the play sets out to do.
“All we can do is highlight and compassionately produce something on the stage which other people might not have contemplated before.”
This is the last time the play might be shown in the UK, before they head to Paris for the Autumn Festival.
Love has also been filmed and a shorter version of the play will be broadcast on BBC Two in December. It will be playing at the Queen’s Theatre in Billet Lane from October 25 - 27.
To book tickets call 01708 443333 or visit queens-theatre.co.uk.