The first question people will generally ask is "What is the play about?" The answer is one of the most exciting parts of the project: "We don't know". We deliberately don't know because we want the residents and others associated with the City to have an input into 'finding the play' and influencing it. Claque Theatre has developed a process that involves a playwright working collaboratively with the community. The first step will be a broad consultation to identify the most pressing and potent contemporary concerns facing the east side of the city of London. This allows us to seek out stories in our history that have resonants with today's issues. The play should be, in part at least, a chronicle for our times. The east side wards of the City has been home to the the greatest chroniclers of London. Now the residents of today's city have an opportunity of chronicling their community through a play.
Step One - Soundings
As we research the play we can't help thinking what the play might be about. Whilst we know that play may be historic we know for certain it must have themes that are meaningful to modern audience; so finding out about local people's concerns, issues, hopes and fears is a good starting point. Whether you live in the City, work here, are a visitor or just interested your views on what you think about the City are important and will help inform the content of the play and influence the project. We've heard many people's views already but it's not too late to add new one's or expand on the one we already have. It would be helpful is you could answer the Sounding Questionnaire and invest your views in the play.
Step Two - Gathering Historical Parallels
Having identified some commonly accepted local issues and themes we search for historical events and periods of time that seemed most likely to resonate and inform our present condition. Some of the themes we have picked up is the process of the play itself, telling stories and the fact that the leading Chroniclers of London lived in the east side wards of the City. Geoffrey Chaucer (Aldgate) John Stowe (Lime Street) John Strype (Portsoken) Samuel Pepys (Tower) Israel Zangwill (Portsoken). Another major recurring theme is immigration and migration, From its foundation as an Italian built city it has been defined and depended on its multiculturalism . It could be said that we are all migrants or immigrants or at the very least their ancestors ; it's in the very DNA of the community.
Step Three - Narrowing the field * this is where we are now
Stephen Lowe has been given research material and responses gathered from the soundings. He is regularly meeting with local people and attending a series of public conversations. The research has been narrowed down to the Victorian age, more specifically the 1880's. It's a period of time that resonates with some of the more potent contemporary themes that have most constantly been brought up by researchers and among the many discussions. We are now asking people to delve a little deeper into specific areas of research. At the next public conversation on Thursday 11th August Stephen will present some early ideas and a potential treatment for the play.