Heft will explore the way people long for meaning in modern England. Set around the 2015 general election, the play will tell the story of a man who spends a few weeks sleeping on the sofa of an old friend, whose adopted daughter, a struggling actor, has recently moved home and is living in the house as well. The play is an extension of Norris’ ongoing examination of what is extraordinary about ordinary life in his part of the world. This examination has been at the heart of Up In Arms’ achievements to date: Visitors, which won Norris the Critics’ Circle Most Promising Playwright Award, was presented by the company at the Arcola and Bush Theatre and on tour in 2014, and Eventide will be co-produced with the Arcola and toured in autumn 2015.
Each of these plays was developed through a deep engagement with the community among whom the play is set, and a deep engagement with the actors intended to perform the final play. This development period will be an extension of that process. In collaboration with our associate venues, Up In Arms will gather a body of material through a development process that allows them to engage closely with the communities they intend to eventually tour the play to. The Pound, the North Wall and the Spring will collaborate to arrange access for the company to their audiences and the world they inhabit. An interview-led process will then gather a rich body of material to form the texture of the play. This play will then be worked on with the play’s intended final company, Danny Sapani, Linda Bassett and Cassie Bradley, three actors whose talent and inventiveness will further enrich and inform the eventual script. By this collaborative process, we believe more exciting work comes into being.
Norris, the director Alice Hamilton and the company stage manager Charlie Young will spend a week in the summer of 2015 visiting different communities to collect material for the play. They will then spend a second week in the spring of 2016 working on the play with the acting company, who will work from the base of one of our associate venues providing rehearsal space as support in kind to the project, to explore and enliven the material collected through reading, discussion and improvisation. At the end of this workshop period, a script will be written gathering the lessons of the workshop into a statement.
Heft is being developed with the aim of touring to both regional arts centres and village halls as well as in the Theatre Upstairs at the Royal Court who are co-commissioning the play.
The draft schedule for this development process is as follows:
July – August: Interviews in rural Wiltshire, Havant and Oxford
December: Workshop week with actors in Havant and Royal Court