High Streets, Community Centres and Empty Shops Become Stages For Stories
The first year of The REP's pioneering Furnace programme comes to fruition over the coming months with five new pieces of theatre created by emerging artists from the West Midlands.
Furnace aims to bring together local communities with extraordinary stories to tell and a range of artists to create theatre with and for those communities. From Ladywood to Alum Rock, Erdington to West Bromwich and Sparkbrook the artists – Alexander Zeldin with Nyasha Gudo, Susie Sillett, Selina Thompson, Hannah Graham and Amerah Saleh – have worked with groups and communities of these areas to create unique pieces of theatre with, for and by them.
Roxana Silbert, Artistic Director at Birmingham Repertory Theatre said:
“The West Midlands is our stage. From a post-industrial High Street to a school undergoing transformation we have brought together artists and communities full of ideas to create theatre rooted in the very area where the journeys began. The five areas we've chosen are most deserving of celebration of the people that live there and collectively the performances will see many local people creating, making and engaging with art and with theatre. This is theatre seen through their eyes and ears.”
Launching the first of the performances is The Meeting (Work In Progress) by Alexander Zeldin, created with Deaf people at the Deaf Cultural Centre in Ladywood (18 & 19 May). Based on real experiences of the cast this work in progress explores what it means to feel excluded as an individual and what we share in common as one community. Featuring a choir and no interpreter, The Meeting will show that we don't' always need to hear in order to understand one another. Alexander Zeldin's previous work includes the critically acclaimed LOVE and Beyond Caring.
Pupils at Nansen Primary School, along with their teachers and parents take part in Susie Sillett's When The Bell Rings (10,11 & 12 July) – a fairytale like journey celebrating the joyous heartbeat of Alum Rock, exploring future hopes and the importance of questioning everything around us.
The Polish Expats Association, St Barnabas Cake and OIKOS Café join forces with Erdington-born writer and performer Selina Thompson for We Come and Pave The Streets With Gold (19 July) – a joyful celebration of Erdington's communities, the places they gather and the conversations that are had there. These three cafes on Erdington's High Street will host three individual performances complete with food, performances and conversation.
In Queen's Square, West Bromwich, writer Hannah Graham and the YMCA take over a shop for a lively portrayal of life in the Black Country. Mothers' walks, church fêtes, bin night shenanigans, superstitions and proud traditions, Where Yow Frum? (28 & 29 July) brings to life the smells and sights, spirit and character of a place.
Birmingham Spoken word artist Amerah Saleh will create work with a cross section of people from Sparkbrook – an inner-city area in South East Birmingham where Amerah grew up. Her piece Spark11 Stories will be performed in the autumn.