You too can easily take a place in Nottingham Playhouse history by dedicating a seat – it costs £200 (or £160 for Backstage Pass members).
Contact Olivia Wood – her email is firstname.lastname@example.org
Community theatre should be in and come out of a community, should look for and value the relevant, the original, the stories. It’s mostly about the people though, the people who throw themselves into the work, the guidance they get to understand and own the story and to learn how to express the bigger, deeper, more complex in themselves, in others and their audience.
Above: Karr Kennedy, James Pacey part of Nottingham Playhouse Ensemble for Coram Boy.
It’s about quality, a new product, that participants and audiences, ‘we’ also co-create.
Nottingham Playhouse ensemble for Coram Boy with Alex Patterson
By allowing something new into our community we create the confidence to realise that we can change things through making hidden stories visible.
History belongs to everyone whether they’re in the gig and gang labour economy, in insecure rented acommodation, for example, yet the systems and practices around gig and gang labour economies: betting, gambling, casinos, lotteries, charities, food banks, off licences, poor quality takeaway food, social research that might be in the service of exploitative processes, health, data, outcomes that are predictive, predestining outcomes and pathways. We have grown a parasitic economy of entertainment that preys on disability because we haven’t seriously understood what inclusion is, socially, culturally, historically. We’ve created dementia capitalism that preys on exclusion and difference.
That’s why we need community theatre: it heals.
Above: Moira Balmer, Marie Lewin Ensemble Cast
Community theatre creates possibilities of expression that we didn’t know were there until we ventured there…
Sensitivity and wonder: a found truth because it’s shared by participants and the audience. Often people involved in community theatre will realise there’s a personal connection with the subject matter, like:
Kali Dennett – a 20 year-old account executive from Radcliffe-on-Trent discovered her Great-great-grandfather was a foundling, taken in by the Coram hospital in the 1800s.
Kali says: “At first I didn’t connect the dots between my family history and the play itself. That’s when my mum and my Gran began to let me know about our family history – and it’s been fascinating to find out more of the detail.”
Kali’s Great-great-grandfather christened Alfred Owen by the Foundling Hospital – was admitted in April 1876 at just eight months old. Through her family’s research, Kali can re-tell some of what happened to Alfred and how he came to be raised at the hospital.
Tragically, Lowther died of scarlet fever the following May. He never met his son – or even knew he was a father. Kali rehearsed for Coram Boy, which tells the story of the history of the Foundling Hospital. Tomorrow is the last night. It’s been on this week between Wednesday 7 and Saturday 10 August 2019. Kali auditioned with 300 members of the public in March and won a place in the choir.
“At first I thought it was a mistake – me, singing? Are you sure? We’ve been getting there over the months, and I’m loads more confident after being taken out of my comfort zone and trying something new”.
“My family are really excited to see me perform and proud that I’m a part of it – it feels like our history has come full circle.”
Thomas Coram established the Foundling Hospital, London’s first home for babies whose mothers and fathers were unable to care for them 280 years ago. Others used the model for exploitative purposes.
Mothers and fathers left a token which could be used to identify their child if they returned to reclaim them. Today, Thomas Coram’s legacy continues as the children’s charity Coram offers direct, practical help to children, young people, and their families.
Based on the award-winning novel written in 2000 by Jamila Gavin, the play Coram Boy contains three interwoven stories of love, friendship and betrayal at a time of great social mobility and opportunity set against slavery, killing and exploitation.
Alexander Ashbrook, the heir to the Ashbrook manor, and his friend, Thomas Ledbury, are choir boys at Gloucester Cathedral. Alex wants to continue his own career as a composer and musician but his dad wants him to manage the family estate. Ironically though Alex’s dad has had an affair and Aaron is the product, being picked up by Otis and Meshak and narrowly avoiding death with his friend Toby who are saved by Otis’s son Meshak fleeing to the Coram Hospital.
Community theatre offers a place of balance not more ‘shock and awe, scorched earth’ entertainment and news that we see in the wider world and mimicked in the local. We’ve just had the Independent Inquiry Into Child Abuse in Nottingham and we need to understand that the truth of abuse isn’t just what was delivered after many years of research, in some crucial way we need to revalue all human life and consider slavery, the modern interrelationships between gig, gang labour and rentier economy and create new kinds of creative jobs for people of every background, with training and decent contracts across the life cycle.
Above: Ensemble members: Richard Brown, Moira Balmer, Elliot Briffa, Rachel Sharp, Marie Lewin
In community theatre we can look at all kinds of issues because everyone has a right and a place that they can’t have at the moment elsewhere in society or culture: it exploits them. If you are in insecure work, if you live in rented accommodation you might just slip off the electoral register (as seven million people have been allowed to do) because you’re so busy getting to work, paying your rent and avoiding all the many exploitative distractions on your way to, while you’re at work and even on the way home: gaming, gambling, shopping online, etc etc. We’re not all created equal in this brave new technological paradise.
Above: Ensemble members: Kevin Brown, Kouassi, Elliot Briffa
When you look at the thirteen years of reality TV exploitation of the underclass in Jeremy Kyle, where a distant relative of Joseph Bazalgette who worked to re-engineer sewage in London and brought cholera to an end in the 19th century, Peter Bazelgette, is strangely, now the Chair of ITV and thus was answerable to a recent Select Committee on Reality TV in the same way that Dominic Cummings was answerable to the Select Committee on Disinformation and Fake News but arrogantly avoided accountability. This new generation of hereditary entrepreneurs in media don’t question the removal of rights and security from many people in society yet think it’s their right to exploit them: Big Brother, Jeremy Kyle. Sewage of a different kind. Perhaps they should undertake a lie detector test and be under the same kind of pressure as their guests.
An underclass makes them even richer and, like Dominic Cummings and Boris Johnson, they really think they’re above the law that the era of parliamentary democracy and human rights was a time limited thing and it’s back to a post modern feudal future.
So in our local community theatres and TV we don’t need to nurture respect for the media and established theatre and entertainment, we need to nurture a theatre that will cherish difference and a reinterpretation of the local that begins to create a new reciprocity between the underclass and the over class, away from a gig and gang labour supply chain across the world: something that repurposes old ways of seeing, thinking, feeling, behaving and making in society and certainly not more of the same kind of golden ticket social mobility for the odd benefactee.
Ensemble members: Emily Hallam, Kouassi, Cody Harrison, Isaac Hull
Community theatre comes out of a community that is in books but isn’t written legibly.
It wants to find the stories in the ensemble and cast and with the cast test them, enable the cast to write them into the text that’s being used. Community theatre is comfortable challenging assumptions of script writers and often the greatest work is in rehearsal.
Above: Sam Whitworth, Marie Lewin Michelle Bland, Kouassi, Richard Brown, Rachel Sharp, Kevin Brown, Alex Kelsall
Our conventional reality is not truth: the truth of the text, the truth of the play, the truth of our society. Community theatre is the teacher with a vocation who says that we need to stop judging, to use our eyes, ears, all our senses and share what it is we see, feel, know can change this through knowing ourselves.
Go and see Coram Boy at the Nottingham Playhouse and get into community theatre, for all of us.
Coram Boy Professional and Community Ensemble Cast
Nottingham Playhouse prepares for its biggest-ever live production
Over 100 community performers and local creatives bring historic epic, Coram Boy, to life
Nottingham Playhouse is taking over the Albert Hall with a company of over 100 local performers and creatives in its biggest-ever live community production.
Based on the award-winning novel by Jamila Gavin, Coram Boy tells the tale of Aaron and his best friend Toby. Both are wards of Thomas Coram’s famous Foundling Hospital, which took in children whose mothers were unable to care for them during the eighteenth century.
The play is directed by Adam Penford, following his successes with both Wonderland and The Madness of George III – starring Mark Gatiss and Adrian Scarborough. It also continues Nottingham Playhouse’s long-standing tradition for making ground-breaking theatre with and for local people.
In March 2019, over 300 people applied to be part of Coram Boy, from 12 to 80, and a diverse range of occupations including nurses, care workers and bus drivers. They came from far and wide across Nottinghamshire, and for many, it is their first time acting or singing in a production. The journey of both cast and choir members has been followed through the Playhouse’s regular video posts.
George Frederic Handel conducted annual performances of The Messiah to raise vital funds for the Foundling Hospital, and his music is central to the plot of the play. Internationally acclaimed organist John Keys will perform on the Albert Hall’s famous grade 2 listed Binns Organ alongside a string quartet, accompanying the community choir in Coram Boy’s soaring vocal score.
Adam Penford, Artistic Director at Nottingham Playhouse“Coram Boy is our most ambitious and exciting community project to date. We were overwhelmed by the number of people who wanted to be involved and had to make some tough decisions during the audition process. The cast reflects the diversity of our region with participants of all different ages and backgrounds. It’s been so much fun watching them bond and work together to create this complex and moving production. Their work ethic and enthusiasm has infected the whole organisation.”
Martin Berry, Head of Participation at Nottingham Playhouse “A huge project like Coram Boy underlines how talented and creative our city is.
The company has developed and thrived throughout the project, and the end result promises to be incredible.”
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