It’s a story of newcomers bringing change to a town. We still have that fear. It shows up almost daily in the news.
How did the project come about?
TVAF were looking for projects involving young people. I suggested talking to John Baxter. I’d seen a couple of theatre projects John had done with schools and knew what he could deliver. I didn’t know then I was going to be the writer.
How did that happen?
The original writer had to drop out. I had written a one man piece for John, which we premiered at Chapel Arts last September, so he asked me to step in.
What inspired the play?
Yinnon, John and I were discussing the project and had more or less agreed the subject would be the workhouse scandal - Andover’s big claim to fame. Then John had a light bulb moment and said, no, make it London overspill.
What was the biggest challenge?
I thought it would be getting the stories, but people were generous with their memories – both Andoverians and Londoners. I ended up with more stories than I could fit in, and I’m still getting them. What proved the big challenge was writing a play not knowing the cast size or gender split. I put in lots of characters and hoped. Even then Sir Keith Joseph had to undergo a hitherto unrecorded gender reassignment.
Watching what you’ve written being performed is always an adventure as no-one does it quite as you imagined. That’s why I love writing for theatre. What stood out was the joy and enthusiasm of the cast. These were teenagers who’d given up their half term to perform what I’d written. Who wouldn’t be proud of that?
What was the most unforgettable moment?
Can I be greedy and pick several? The song – which I didn’t write – certainly was a standout moment. The otter line in the school sequence had a huge laugh. Credit to the actor there. He got the silence before it spot on. But the moment I won’t forget was the buzz of recognition on the line ‘we don’t want slum dwellers here.’ I knew then I really was telling their tale. That’s a great feeling for a writer.