Performance in the Community
This summer, the familiar will be made strange and wonderful.
Many people will know The Royal Central School of Speech and Drama (Central) in Swiss Cottage opposite Hampstead Theatre, but did you know that about a third of their work is with drama in the community, also known as ‘Applied Theatre’?
This summer, Central embarks on a new project, led by Prof. Sally Mackey. Titled Performing Local Places (or Performing Places: working with local councils to reach new communities and facilitate wellbeing in living environments, which is its official title), this new project works with Camden Council to respond to council needs. Central is working with St Mungo’s, using place practices developed from an earlier AHRC research project to support the transition of residents from fully-supported living to semi-independent living. Performing Local Places is facilitated by three very experienced drama facilitators: Vishni Velada-Billson, Samantha Adams and Liz Atkin.
Place, here, is distinguished from site and space.
‘Site’ may be a cafe that’s marked on a map, but you’ve never visited this cafe and you don’t have any memories or feelings associated with it.
‘Space’ may describe the physical dimensions within that cafe.
But the cafe becomes Place when one becomes familiar with it (perhaps through repeated visits), or when one has formed meaningful relationships with people within this cafe.
So we began Performing Local Places by meeting the residents of St Mungo’s at their regular breakfast sessions at the Swiss Cottage Community Cafe. We walked back together to St Mungo’s where Vishni and Sam facilitated the creation of pieces that expressed how we were feeling at this moment. From ‘ochre’, ‘earthy’ and ‘solid’ to ‘the love boat’ that sat on ‘calm water’, ‘secure’ each piece spoke volumes about how we felt that morning, in the lovely garden of St Mungo’s.
One resident wrote, ‘don’t let anything get you down’ on a gently folded maroon tissue paper, tied this to a ribbon and hung it from a tree. It looked beautiful, gently flapping in the wind. Soon, we had placed our pieces all over the garden, linking them with red wool and purple, green and orange ribbons.
The garden was transformed, temporarily, into a place that suggested fantasy and magic. One resident said ‘I don’t know...Nintendo?’ as he re-experienced the once-familiar garden. Another said, ‘It's been a long time since I saw the place so colourful and it's a great start to the day.’ And so it was. For the team at Performing Local Places, it was not only a great start to the day, but also a promising start for the project at St Mungo’s.
By Adelina Ong on behalf of The Royal Central School of Speech and Drama.