21Years21Stories – Our First Site Specific Performance

This year, Black Country Touring is turning 21 years old! To celebrate, we’re sharing lots of stories and memories about the work we have done over the past 21 years. #21Years21Stories
We’d love to hear from you, so if you have a great memory please share it with us here: https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLScR8O3nXE6zl8sxh68EvTATQ-GG3lv9opxryW1sOERuc7Q25A/viewform?usp=sf_link

This memory came from Frances Land, Co-Artistic Director of Black Country Touring. 
Frances has been with BCT since the beginning, and has been a real driving force in the development and mission of the company. 

 

One of my many, many great memories from the roller coaster of life at BCT comes from our first major site specific production at an old school in Wednesbury.

Apna Ghar was a co production with Foursight Theatre. It was based on South Asian women’s stories about journeys from their home countries in the Indian sub continent and Africa to settle in the UK. The stories were incredibly diverse and covered so many different experiences of both the women who came as well as the experiences of subsequent generations around the complexity of identity and home. We worked with a brilliant team of researchers, musicians, performers, makers, volunteers, choreographers, designers, international artists and also 50 children from a primary school in Smethwick.

So basically a cast of thousands, a very small budget and just three weeks in total before it opened – it was completely wonderful and completely bonkers in terms of the amount of work needed to pull it off and I’m not quite sure how Steve and I and the rest of the BCT team survived. Our partnership with Designer Andrew Purvin has been integral to many BCT productions, he is hugely creative and frequently comes up with seemingly mad ideas. For the opening moment of Apna Ghar he suggested we have our audience seated in the cabin of a plane and to physically experience take off. How this was going to manifest was down to Designer/maker Rob Hill who came up with the idea of using two huge steel beams, under the plane’s cabin, on a pivot to create what in effect was a huge seesaw. The outcome of this was an audience sitting calmly inside the cabin listening to the women’s stories of departure, accompanied by beautiful live music from Sarvar Sabri and musicians, with dancer Lucy Tuck, perfectly attired in an original 1960s BA uniform, performing cabin crew safety instructions and, as the sound of the engine grew louder the plane lifted off. The whole audience tilted backwards, feeling the plane move and shake as they got underway. Outside another performances was taking place with a whole team of people awaiting their cue to stand on the back of the steel beams, shifting the balance of the seesaw, to make the plane lift off. This was quickly followed by them all franticly jumping up and down so the audience inside could experience turbulence.

Ahh the magic of theatre!