Eleanor at Richmond Theatre phoned this morning to offer me the playwriting facilitator job for their 110 anniversary celebrations in the Autumn. I'm dead chuffed and looking forward to starting the work.
The idea is to spend the next few months identifying local schools and youth groups to recruit a core team of young researchers and performers. They'll be trained by the oral history society and also have privileged access to the V & A Theatre collection and their archivists.
The fun comes as we identify interviewees and begin to gather the material ready to shape it up over the Summer.
As with all work of this kind it's impossible to predict the outcome - but I'd like us to really explore the form as well as the content. I don't think it'll be enough just to present a celebratory pageant focused on the building itself. The work needs to risk being more personal than that.
I think the stories we have look for are where a night out in Richmond linked to something significant in the interviewees life. I wonder if anybody proposed after a show, or conversely left their lover. I expect, although I'd love this assumption to be overturn through the work, that most theatregoers see the theatre as a comfortable, reliable old friend - but I'm also convinced it must have, in the moment, changed lives, inspired brave deeds and occasionally upset its patrons. To capture these moments will be to celebrate the textural richness of the theatre on the green.
We might also interview the staff - technicians, stage door keepers, box office, cleaners administrators etc. who work hard to get other people's stories on stage, but who will undoubtedly have great and mischievous secrets to share - provided we approach them in the right way. It's a great opportunity to turn the theatre inside out and understand how and why it works.