Politics and protest is big news right now which makes it the perfect time for Acts of Resistance, an extraordinary collaboration between theatres across England.
The show, at Bristol Old Vic, is the culmination of the Headlong Futures project with people from four local communities aged 12-82 working with playwright Stef Smith, Headlong’s Rob Watt and local associate directors.
Over 18 months, young people from a council estate in Bristol, a group of elderly people in Kendall, ex-military personnel in Plymouth and members of a community centre in Mansfield have worked on creating a local play inspired by the history and culture of their town or city. On 3 April, they all came together for the first time and united their stories to create Acts of Resistance.
We went into the 70-minute show knowing little about the project but were absolutely blown away.
It’s England in 2020. Four communities are angry.
In Mansfield, a woman calls a meeting in a pub to encourage her friends to join the anti-fracking cause. But in the course of encouraging them to get out on the streets, the real reasons for her anger come to the fore.
In Kendall, a young mother holds a birthday party for her mum determined to “make it special” and to avoid talking about politics, a subject that has dominated their relationship as a result of her mum’s involvement in the miners’ strike of the 1980s.
In Bristol, Mercy, an idealistic teenager, tries to get her friends interested in saving the planet and inspire them to seek better lives than their challenging surroundings would suggest they are destined to achieve.
And in Plymouth, a family are forced to confront the tensions a tragedy has caused when their boat, on the way to a demonstration supporting fishermen’s rights, sprouts a leak.
The play is an outstanding tale of how a divided nation can come together across generations. It’s all the more remarkable given that these are not professional actors gracing the stage.
Each story is told with immense passion with each led by one leading actress. All are absolutely brilliant and deliver performances that would put many a pro to shame.
We might be biased but we can’t resist giving a special mention to 15-year-old Liana Cottrill who plays Mercy from Bristol. In a powerful monologue about fighting the restrictions of a deprived area in a big city, she owned the stage and is definitely a star of the future.
Day 2 of #ActsofResistance rehearsals @BristolOldVic @HeadlongTheatre. So excited to finally see four community theatre groups from across the country come together to raise a glass – ‘to hope!’ w/ @wattnot @stefsmith @LAHface @MrsJayneW @Jugehead pic.twitter.com/3lMRBQJGDa
— Jonny Randall (@jonnyrandall) April 4, 2019
We live in hugely challenging times and the rows over Brexit suggest we are more divided than ever.
But Acts of Resistance shows there is some hope. If we all come together for the common good, no matter what our age, gender, colour, background or wealth, we can make our world just that little bit better.
Any chance we can bus the politicians from Westminster to Bristol to catch the last performance? They could learn a thing or two.
Acts of Resistance has one remaining performance at 2pm on 8 April at Bristol Old Vic.
Headlong Futures collaborated with the following venues and groups;
- Theatre Royal Plymouth: Headlong Futures associate director Lucy Hirst worked with a group of ex-military personnel and their families. They range in ages from 21 to 75 years.
- Bristol Old Vic: Headlong Futures associate director Julia Head worked with a group of 23 young people from in and around the Lockleaze estate.
- Brewery Arts, Kendal: Headlong Futures associate director Jon Randall worked with an isolated elderly group of senior citizens from rural parts of the Lake District.
- New Perspectives, East Midlands: Headlong Futures associate director Jayne Williams worked with a community group based in a library ranging from ages 12-82 from the Mansfield area.