Another lifetime ago, I was looking for a new idea or person to write about. A friend sent me a book “Bermondsey Story” by Fenner Brockway. It wasn’t the greatest read of my life; rather stuffy; a little bit of the old boys matey-ness that I dislike and sparse reference to Ada Salter who was his “Great comrade” as he calls her towards the end of the play. But it was a start.
And many times, it has been put away through lack of vision, self-defeat, disabuse, lack of self-belief and a hundred and one other reasons. The over-riding reason is that I simply did not feel qualified to write about a great local figure that no-one in the wider world had ever heard of.
So why did I keep going? Because it became clear that the world that I understood a few years ago, was spiralling downwards and that values that I was brought up with were fading. The Salters had strong beliefs in working for the good of the people. They were both leaders and they both served. But as I look around, I don’t see our leaders having those same principles and I am worried about that. So, I took the play out of its wrapper and started over. And I had a lot of help; some of those have given me feedback that I found painful to receive; others sat me down and went through it line by line; others – actor friends with a spare day- read it aloud with passion and skill and still more people came along to advise, console, encourage and criticise.
Then came the means to afford a production in this financial climate. Arts Council turned me down four times. Other smaller funders were as generous as their reduced coffers could allow.
And just as I was about to give up, another good friend told me about Ugly Duck creative space and I applied and I got in! So, on the inevitable shoe string and with able help from so many, we are finally here. An exciting cast; a willing and hardworking creative team and an empty space to work in.
Why write this play? Why write anything? For me it is because I have something to say; to make a point; to annoy; to inform; to change.
I truly believe that Theatre changes people. Not a radical change perhaps but a different point of view. Or to put it another way:
“The theatre may now be the only place in society where people can go to hear the truth” (David Mamet)