29 November 2017 •
Ellen McDougall on Twilight: Los Angeles, 1992 and Trust
It suddenly feels very quiet at the Gate as the excitement of Suzy Storck is over for the moment, and our next two shows Twilight: Los Angeles 1992 by Anna Deavere Smith and Trust by Falk Richter are just emerging from exciting conversations with the design teams and casting processes.
I thought I'd take this moment to tell you a bit more about them.
Both have been written in the context of moments of undeniable, seismic crises. Both reinvent the form of theatre to talk about the complexity of those moments. Both explore massive, explosive moments on a personal, human scale that is by turns joyous, painful, and undeniably insightful.
Twilight: Los Angeles 1992 was written by actor-writer Anna Deavere Smith in response to the LA riots of 1992. It was a moment that tore the city - and the nation - apart. More than 60 people died, and countless more were injured across the five days it lasted. It exposed tensions that existed then, and still do, between the diverse communities that make up that divided city - and the widespread mistrust of the police and authorities - a story that is all too familiar to us in 2017. Anna's response to that moment was one of the earliest examples of verbatim theatre - she invented a form in order to tell that story in the most authentic way imaginable. Her interviews with around 300 people enabled her to present the incredibly wide range of people affected by that moment in their own words. Unsurprisingly, the stories she encountered go so much further than the news reporting did - and reveal the incredibly complex, and inspiring, depth of thought and experience that happened there. Anna performed the original production herself. I find that feat, in itself, an incredibly moving gesture - the idea that through a single body, those disparate, often opposing voices might be brought into the same space. Our production will also feature a single performer (announcement coming soon! watch this space!)
Trust was written in response to the financial crisis of 2007. A moment when it became undeniably clear that the banking system we trusted had betrayed us. I remember the mind-boggling conversations I had with people then about debt, the interest on that debt, and ever expanding numbers that had just suddenly imploded - plunging us into the period of 'austerity' that has had such outrageous, fatal consequences - with the feeling of nagging doubt that the system itself hasn't changed. That it could happen again any day. That the cuts that resulted have only punished the innocent. Falk Richter responded to that moment by inventing a new form of writing to explore how we might understand what is happening to us, without having to have multiple degrees in economics. He imagines a couple in a relationship. Things are fine. Things are good. But then there is a huge betrayal - and the trust on which the relationship was built is lost. How do we respond in those moments? There's the option of calling it quits - and finding a way to move on. Of building a completely new life. But the idea of being single - no one to make you tea in the morning, no one to borrow £50 off to buy that jumper you really want, no one who knows you better than you - is profoundly terrifying to imagine. So then you think, perhaps things aren't so bad. Sure, you can't trust each other, but there are lots of good things too, right? Maybe everyone's relationships are like this too. Maybe its normal. Maybe its best to just carry on. Deep down though, you know you are settling for something less than ideal. Something that might really hurt further down the line, or in ways that you maybe don't notice at first. And so it is with the financial system we still depend on. Should we break up?
At the Gate, both these shows are directed by the two of the most exciting directors working in London at the moment. Ola Ince's critically acclaimed production of Start Swimming at the Young Vic earlier this year made her talent for making deeply imaginative and formally inventive theatre incredibly clear. The muscularity of the performances she drew out of the young people she was working with was incredibly moving and powerful to watch - I absolutely can't wait to see her work with the performer of Twilight.
Jude Christian is one of the most inventive directors working in the UK at the moment. Her first professional production was at the Gate in 2014, with the extraordinary title, I'd rather Goya robbed me of my sleep than some other arsehole, a story about a father and his two children that Jude staged with Stefan Rhodri and two piglets playing the children. She has since written and performed in her own work, as well as becoming the go-to director for ambitious new writing. Her production of Lela&Co at the Royal Court about sex-trafficking was hugely celebrated and her latest production, Parliament Square, a Bruntwood winning play, is opening this week at the Bush Theatre. She will make something unexpected and joyful with Falk Richter's playful text of Trust.
Two incredibly exciting shows cooking up here at the Gate - see you next year!