A morning meeting with old friends of the ABC group of former sex workers who now run their own activities from a school building just north of the market. Since their inception three years ago they've gone from strength to strength, facilitating groups of their own, running risk prevention workshops, undertaking physical training as well as writing and performing their own forum plays. It was wonderful to see them looking so well, full of laughter, ideas and committed to developing new projects.
The group used to be women only but recently been two men, Johnny and Bo, have joined. They were reluctant to give too much away about their past, but were clearly relishing the vitality and opportunities that the work was giving them.
Grace and Gift led half the group in a planning session and we stayed with Rose who lead a vigorous warm up before inviting us to watch the new forum play that they're developing based on the testimonies of tobacco farmers.
Johnny took the role of the plays anti-hero, a tobacco dealer who against the promises made to his wife and children spends his money on beer and sex, only to find his wallet and clothes stolen. He returns home to his distraught wife, who, after a beating reluctantly forgives him. However, a few days later he starts to feel feverish and finds he has no energy to return to the market.
The performances were brilliant and although I rather missed the women playing their clients - they knew exactly how to produce a perfect parody - the arrival of men into the group has clearly brought a new dynamic and sense of possibility to the devising process. Next week the play is going to be performed on the trading floor at one of the major auction houses so this morning's exercise was an excellent road test.
There's real self motivation and momentum in the group now and although, Rhoda, who I first met three years ago, as a trainee is still around to offer Tfac support and advice, for the most part they are self-sufficient and working independently to develop their own work. It's a fantastic story in itself. .
Mark is the Academic Director of the Drama Programmes at St Mary's University in Twickenham. He has worked internationally as a theatre director and educator for the past 15 years, focused mostly on youth, community, and conflict resolution work.
As a lecturer Mark taught at Goldsmiths College, Coventry University and was Head of Performing Arts at Canterbury College prior to joining St Mary’s in 2006.
His Professional directing credits include Henry V (One of US?) and Valhalla for RSC Education; The Wind in the Willows, Jack Cade, The Red, Red Robin for Sevenoaks Playhouse; Tender Souls, The Quality of Mercy and Playhouse Creatures for the Ambassadors Theatre group.
Mark is a director of subVERSE Theatre company for whom has directed fringe premieres of Chief, Dinnertime and OxfamC**t at Theatre 503.
Site specific work includes Purka and Shadow on Icelandic volcanoes and Novocento with students from the University of Genoa.