I’m so excited to share this new season of exceptional international plays and artists.
The intimacy of the Gate space lends itself to work that brings the audience into the conversation: this season we’ve broken bread together, learnt some useful Chinese phrases, shared difficult conversations and cups of tea, helped a mother tidy away a sea of toys and concluded the programme with a riotous cabaret. The serious questions that underpin these shared moments in our theatre relate to a recognition of our presence, our connection with each other, our basic humanity – while telling stories that grapple with a world that in so many ways distances and alienates us from those things.
This next season begins, as the last did, with a summer project getting us out of our building and into our area. Our Young Associates led by Anthony Simpson Pike, are making a listening project called Harambee – Swahili for ‘coming together’ – in conversation with local partners. They are focusing on oral histories of political resistance in the Notting Hill area – in relation to the British Civil Rights Movement. The first phase of Harambee will include a public sharing out and about in Notting Hill and North Kensington, in the week leading up to Carnival.
From September, we return to our space and an intimate, private conversation overheard between a woman and her lover in the iconic French play The Human Voice, by Jean Cocteau. The play is an unflinching look at the most intimate of human relationships, and the impact of technology that promises to bring us closer but that perhaps separates us ever further apart. Then we journey to Antigua with Jamaica Kincaid in Anna Himali Howard’s staging of her essential essay, A Small Place. The piece explores whether those who hold power and the disenfranchised, can ever see one another eye to eye. It is sympathetic, intimate, furious, searingly insightful: set against the backdrop of a paradise on earth. This production coincides with the 70th anniversary of the Windrush Generation – many of whom settled in Notting Hill. Alongside A Small Place we will be programming a series of events as part of our In Conversation evenings, focusing on the artists who were part of that community and who created some of the most incredible writing in response to that experience including Derek Walcott, Claude McKay, George Lamming.
In the new year, we open with Sarah Ruhl’s play Dear Elizabeth which charts an extraordinary friendship that survived across nations, decades, political eras in a devastatingly beautiful series of letters that the poets Elizabeth Bishop and Robert Lowell wrote each other throughout their unconventional lives. The letters feel sometimes like a lifeline, sometimes like the voices of the loneliest people who ever lived, often like the best friends you could ever wish for – funny, unsparing, insightful. Our next play imagines a journey through Afghanistan, Eastern Europe, the Hindu Kush, Bad Rippoldsau, and finally, inside ourselves, in Wolfram Lotz’ extraordinary new play The Ridiculous Darkness – a response to the iconic film Apocalypse Now and the 20th century classic novel, Heart of Darkness. The play asks us to interrogate what we imagine the darkness is.
We conclude the season with another exciting new collaboration for the Gate following this years’ co-production with ENO – a partnership with the exceptional Shubbak Festival. We’ll be presenting a series of shows from brilliant artists making work in the Arab world and diaspora. Some of these are shows I’ve wanted to bring to the Gate for a really long time, others are new artists that Shubbak have introduced us to. For many of them this will be the first time they present their work in London.
As with last year, there’s no theme to the season, it’s a deliberately eclectic range of stories, perspectives, forms, artists. It charts both intimacy and distance, the things that bring us together and those that divide us irrevocably. The lengths we go to to reach each other, or to separate ourselves from each other. Never ending journeys, the furthest things we can imagine, and our inescapable need for one another. All these things that I think are are felt so profoundly in our intimate, ever changing space. Come join us.