More and more these days, theatre and film quickly jumps on so called ‘relevant’ ideas and events immediately after they emerge. So, for example, if a group of Aliens arrived in Manchester tomorrow (which would actually be pretty damn cool), there would probably be a play or a film about it by the end of the year.
But often it’s the reported reaction that is the focus of the project. The media may well report the terror and angst of the community after the arrival of these horrifying vulgar creatures… When in reality, if you actually asked your average Manchester resident they may well just say “Oh them aliens, they’re actually alright. Bit noisy and that in their spaceships but never had a problem with them.”
Aliens aside, my point is that if a story is being told it’s our responsibility to get to the core and root of how people actually feel about it, not how we assume they feel about it. I believe the best way to do that (if we haven’t ourselves experienced it first hand) is to talk to people who have.
This brings me to our production of DEEP WATER. My brief for this production was to write a play about Salford, working with the Salford community. Firstly I’m from Salford and live there too, so that’s a good start. I’m not saying that’s 100 percent relevant – I’m sure J.R.R. Tolkien wasn’t from Middle Earth – but it gave me a good basis to begin with – lots of personal stories, feelings and opinions of my home town.
Next stage was to do some research about my area through media reports, newspapers, books, etc. Some really useful and fascinating topics emerged, however it was when I actually got talking to the Salford residents that I really got inspired. After all, it fails to explain in newspapers the feeling you get in your stomach when you jump off a 50 foot bridge into the water, and why it’s so appealing in the first place… What struck me is how much the media reports on Salford differed from what I was actually being told by the residents. I feel a lot of this reporting is told from the outside. But with community theatre we’re able to tell stories from the inside.
And with that it is refreshing to have such a varied mix of people involved in this production. From 12-year-olds knocking about on their bikes by the Quays to retired locals who once worked the docks. From people who’ve never performed in their lives to seasoned actors who’ve treaded the West End. Our director Alex Summers – Associate Artist for the Truth About Youth at the Royal Exchange Theatre – and Community Programme Leader Tracie Daley managed to source a great array of people to get involved. This brought with it an extremely wide range of experiences and views. This was fantastic as it meant I wasn’t short on ideas, but the challenge for me was trying to include as much of this as possible whilst also creating an exciting new play. Fortunately I really believe we’ve managed this. The energy and the excitement from the community kept me inspired throughout my journey to a final script that I’m very proud of.
DEEP WATER is a raw ride that is I believe to be honest, thrilling and a ‘proper buzz!’
Deep Water is from 28 AUGUST 2015 – 29 AUGUST 2015.
Image: Anneka Morley