This weekend something brilliant happened at the Gate Theatre, alongside the sold out performances of Lynette Linton’s powerhouse production Assata Taught Me. We’d agreed to take part in New Youthquake in Portobello Market, on the basis we got a market stall for the day. We’ve been developing a project with our astoundingly talented Young Associates called Future Kitchen, which is based on an idea by German installation artist, Folke Kobberling. It invites audiences to re-imagine the future through the form of writing a recipe. So we set up our Gate Theatre market stall as a new form of exchange – we invited passers-by to offer us an ingredient to help us write a recipe for the future – and in return they were given an artistic response to it – a poem, a dance, a scene. And it really worked (see pictures!). For me, it was an ideal way to begin my time here at the Gate: a bold experimental idea, inspired by an international artist, developed by our Young Associates, and a new, creative, hopeful relationship with our local community.
And so today as we announce the first season, I’m so thrilled to be able to share this eclectic and vital range of stories, the surprising ideas of how to tell them in our constantly changing space, and most importantly, the brilliant, adventurous artists making the work with us.
The season builds on the Gate’s reputation for exploring vital questions about the world and signals a renewed international focus for the Gate: recognising the importance of looking beyond our borders for collaborative relationships and brilliant international work. I am particularly proud of the diverse range of artists making work in this season. At the Gate, we know from experience that diverse teams make for better conversation, better insight and better work.
Theatre is always local before it is anything else – it’s about a group of people, coming together and being given space to think, to question, to imagine. For this reason And so we begin in our local community, with our Gate Takeover at InTRANSIT Festival in June. We will continue our Future Kitchen project so stop by for some tasty ideas, as well as offering free workshops and performances through the day, including a Renga poetry workshop, and a performance by some very special guests (watch this space!) of extracts from Derek Walcott’s epic poem Omeros, dramaturged by Yasmin Hafesji, who doubles as our Development Assistant by day. Then, as part of the Great Get Together in memory of Jo Cox, we are opening our doors to our neighbours – stop by for a chat (and free tea and cake) – and help us imagine what a Fun Palace at the Gate might be like later this year. A huge thank you to Stella Duffy and Chrissy Angus, our general manager, for making that happen. I’m going to attempt to make a banana cake – and just to be clear that this will be actual food and not a metaphor this time.
I will direct our first show in the autumn, The Unknown Island, based on the short story ‘The Tale of the Unknown Island’ by Jose Saramago. It is the story of a journey; of the epic distances we can feel between ourselves and each other, and of a need to re-imagine the world. It is an intimate, romantic, hopeful story that will give us the opportunity to use our space in a completely new way.
I’m absolutely delighted that we are co-producing with two very different companies: the first is Extime Companie with whom we are presenting French-Senegalese director Jean-Pierre Baro’s UK debut of Magali Mougel’s haunting, visceral and intense new play Suzy Storck. Jean-Pierre’s work has inspired me for nearly ten years and I can’t wait to introduce him to an audience in London.
Suzy Storck is followed by Twilight: Los Angeles, 1992, Anna Deavere Smith’s devastating verbatim play about the riots in LA after Rodney King’s death in the hands of police. It feels startlingly timely following recent horrific race related violence across the world, and is an extraordinary portrayal of the resilience, the humour, and the fullness of humanity.
Jude Christian’s production of Falk Richters’ Trust will present a cast of pan-European actors alongside Jude herself. It is a text I have loved for a long time – it seamlessly marries the personal and the political in a witty and acerbic piece of writing, and feels more pertinent now than ever.
Finally, our second co-production of the season is with ENO, whose Artistic Director Daniel Kramer previously directed groundbreaking productions of Hair and Woyzeck for the Gate. Working together provides another challenge for us to reinvent our space – we will be presenting a cabaret style show of songs from the Weimar Republic’s subversive underground scene, with a live band of ENO musicians (including a piano!) in our 75-seat theatre! The title, Effigies of Wickedness is a phrase the Nazis used to describe these songs at their (sell-out) exhibition entitled ‘Degenerate Music’ that opened exactly 80 years ago to the month – before they censored, exiled and incarcerated the musicians who wrote them. The season will end with a defiant musical celebration of difference, diversity, and freedom of expression.
None of this would be possible without the support of our family of supporters, and I’m particularly delighted to welcome Cockayne, who are generously supporting my first season at the Gate.
(Cockayne Grants for the Arts is a donor-advised fund of The London Community Foundation).