On Friday 13th March, Battersea Arts Centre was severely damaged by fire. Things were looking bleak for the iconic and beautiful building; however, an online fundraising scheme was quickly set up, and over 1750 people collectively donated £50,000 in just two days. The BAC is now able to forge ahead with the extensive necessary renovations and, having been the focus of such generosity and proactivity, it is the ideal place to stage a play about activism and ordinary people changing the world.
STAND consists of six actors reproducing, verbatim, interviews conducted with people who have, to a greater or lesser extent, made a difference to the people, places and events around them. One campaigned against the development of a historic boatyard; another protests against vivisection; yet another works with psychologically damaged refugees… Their stories and their motivations are varied, yet one thing they all have in common is their burning desire to change things for the better.
The staging is simple; the actors sit in chairs facing the audience, the transcript of the interview on a lectern in front of them, and when the spotlight is on them it is their turn to speak. Though strangely reminiscent of Mastermind, it is a streamlined and effective set-up, focussing the attention of the audience entirely upon the words being spoken. The first few minutes feel slightly staccato and halting as the narrative jumps from one character to the other and back again, but gradually, as more of their characters and histories are revealed, they – and we – relax, and the stories take centre stage. It is a difficult task to portray a real, live person; even more so when there are no props or effects and when your interlocutor is both invisible and inaudible; nevertheless the six actors all acquitted themselves well. The people behind them took shape before our eyes, their mannerisms, speech patterns and quirks reproduced with subtlety and realism.
That the interviewees are all good people, there is no doubt. Some are clearly more radical than others, have sacrificed more in their quest for a better world, but all are sincere in their goodwill and convictions. That does not mean, however, that all of them are strictly likeable; a zephyr of smugness and self-righteousness occasionally rippled the air and, as is so often the danger with strongly held beliefs, some of the views expressed felt slightly blinkered and naïve. Nevertheless, it was impossible not to feel admiration for their dedication and respect for their ideals.
In an age of cynicism and self-interest we desperately need inspiration, hope and motivation, and STAND provides all of this. Idealistic it may be, but it is also a deeply moving and uplifting production.
Review by Genni Trickett
As the nation prepares to go to the polls, Chris Goode and Company present the UK tour of STAND, including shows at Battersea Arts Centre in the week of the general election. Drawn from real life stories of courage and conscience from ordinary people, STAND examines what makes people elect to take a stand for what they believe in. For STAND Chris Goode interviewed six ordinary people and captured stories of the extraordinary moments in everyday life that prove the power people have to change their corner of the world.
Presented as a co-production with Oxford Playhouse, who last year staged the show in a community centre as part of its Playhouse Plays Out strand, STAND comes to BAC as part of its Taking a Stand Season, a two-month series of politically engaged shows and events as well as A Nation’s Theatre, a year-long season shining a light on theatre from across the UK.
Six actors portray six real life activists – or at least, six people who have chosen to act. The ideas to which they are devoted could hardly be bigger or more important. They’re ideas about how we make for ourselves a better, more sustainable future; how we live more equitably alongside those with whom we share our planet; how we protect from harm the places that tell us who we are; how we build our families and communities and raise our kids to have an instinct for bravery and kindness. And, most importantly perhaps, how we keep moving forward in the face of greed and corruption, and our own doubt and fear.
Speaking about the show, Chris Goode said “In the run-up to May 7th, the question of what we and others stand for – and what we won’t stand for – becomes ever more pertinent and more pressurized. I hope STAND can be a radically different light to shine on that question.”
Conceived and directed by Chris Goode
Designed by Naomi Dawson Lighting Design by Tim Boyd
Cast: Spencer Brown, Michael Fenton Stevens, Kelda Holmes, Gwyneth Strong, Cathy Tyson, Lawrence Werber
10 – 11 Apr Old Fire Station, Oxford
40 George Street, Oxford OX1 2AQ
www.oldfirestation.org.uk | 01865 263980
14 Apr Corn Exchange, Newbury
Market Place, Newbury, West Berkshire RG14 5BD
www.cornexchangenew.com | 0845 521 8218
15 Apr South Street, Reading
21 South Street, Reading, RG1 4QU
www.readingarts.com/southstreet | 0118 960 6060
16 Apr The Mill, Banbury
Spiceball Park, Spiceball Park Road, Banbury, Oxfordshire OX16 5QE
www.themillartscentre.co.uk | 01295 279002
20 Apr- 9 May Battersea Arts Centre
Lavender Hill, Battersea, London, SW11 5TN
www.bac.org.uk | 020 7223 2223
15-17 May Trinity Centre, Bristol – part of Mayfest 2015
Trinity Centre, Trinity Road, Bristol, Avon BS2 0NW
www.mayfestbristol.co.uk | 0117 935 1200
2 Jun New Wolsey Studio, Ipswich – part of PULSE Fringe Festival 2015
Civic Drive, Ipswich, Suffolk IP1 2AS
www.pulsefringe.com | 01473 295900
4-6 Jun Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh
10 Cambridge Street, Edinburgh EH1 2ED
www.traverse.co.uk | 0131 228 1404
7 Jun The Arches, Glasgow
253 Argyle St, Glasgow, G2 8DL
www.thearches.co.uk | 0141 565 1000
Thursday 23rd April 2015