Standing at the window for best signal and over a crackling phone line, Daniel Davies chats about his latest play, The Domestic Extremists. The play follows the journey of Chloe, Toby and Christopher as they create a film documentary reporting on the actions of the student protests. Davies gives an inside look to the media, the tough decisions they have to make and police surveillance.
Davies kept up to date with the actions of students during the heightened tensions of 2010. He explained that he noticed that there were more demonstrations than was actually covered by the news. “It really hit me what doesn’t get shown.” From working as a TV producer and a commissioner, Davies used what he already knew in terms of the challenges that can be involved in working in the media. He read Managing Democracy, Managing Decent which gave him further insight to Government surveillance and cover-ups. It was revealed that the police started demonstration squads to bring activists or “domestic extremists” to a halt. During a demonstration police will film the crowd and if they notice recurring faces, they have the power to arrest them. “I didn’t want to write a play about student protest.” Davies emphasises. He explains that he wants the audience to question whether they are making the correct decision by just reading or watching one source of documentation when there are so many different incidents occurring. With all of these factors, the play took form during the Script Development Programme at the Space Theatre between January and June 2014.
The topical themes and controversial issues that are raised throughout the play are catalysts for discussion. There are post show discussions which carry this on as journalists and student activists are invited to speak. Davies has found the audience’s reactions to be highly positive as Domestic Extremists has been reviewed as very entertaining. Yet, Davies humbly admits that if someone was to say that they did not agree to the reviews, he would accept it as it would start a conversation and “at least people are talking about it.”
Davies continues to explain the richness of reactions in front of a live performance. “You don’t get that on TV.” The play contains shocking scenes and shocking things said which makes members of the audience gasp as the plot unravels in front of their lives. It is important for Davies to have students and journalists as part of the audience and interestingly, Davies notes that an audience member who worked in media praised him for The Domestic Extremists and expressed that he wanted a play like this for a long time. As someone who works within the media, as a TV producer, Davies emphasises the work that producers, directors and reporters do. The Domestic Extremists illustrates the process of making a documentary and the challenges that can occur. Davies explains that there are three steps when creating a shot; write it, shoot it and then edit it. The final outcome is usually very different from the idea that the director or writer initially had and this is what is highlighted in the play. Chloe has the initial idea but her journey leads her to choose between idealism and reality.
It was reported that six journalists discovered that the Metropolitan Police had been monitoring their movements on a secret database. Davies explained that he believes that this happens a lot and one of the journalists involved joined him for a post-show discussion. This leads him to question whether these incidents aren’t getting the coverage due to it not being as entertaining, or is it down to more serious matters, possibly a cover up. This prompts Davies to refer back to an incident which he was involved in. Schools in his local area were being turned into Academies. He explained there was a lot of resistance but absolutely no coverage from the media to give them a strong enough fight. The Domestic Extremists touches on this issue as Christopher fights with the commissioner to get his footage of the demonstrations screened.
Ideally Davies would like The Domestic Extremists to tour though student towns and cities. He admits that “It would be lovely if it could transfer.” With many topical issues and a widely entertaining script, it sounds hopeful that The Domestic Extremists will be very successful and keep people talking.
The Domestic Extremists is on at The Space 10-28 February. Find out more information here.