Politics and Bread & Butter

Politics and Bread & Butter was performed by the Age Exchange Youth Theatre on Saturday 19 May 2009 at the Bakehouse Theatre in Blackheath Village.

The play was based on the memories of Age Exchange volunteer Miriam McLeod. Miriam’s life spanned memories of her brothers fighting the fascists in Cable Street to them taking place in the Spanish Civil War. Miriam was a marcher on the Aldermaston March in 1958 and was arrested with her daughter at Greenham Common in the 1980s.Politics1

Meeting Miriam gave the students an opportunity to learn about these key moments in British political history and understand at first hand the motivations that led to people fighting and demonstrating for causes they believed passionately in. The young people had very little understanding of these issues and responded enthusiastically to the material. One of the actresses finished the show by learning Miriam’s speech of vindication to the Magistrates at Greenham.

We looked at Unity Theatre’Politics 3s history and their commitment to a political theatre in the 1930s and beyond. Miriam had also been a strong supporter of Unity and her brothers had even appeared in productions there. We employed the ‘Living Newspaper’ format that Unity made famous in British Theatre where scenes were introduced with verbatim reminiscence and newspaper headlines to create a less naturalistic style of production. This allowed the group to explore various styles of presentation, do their own research and add ideas to the production.

The final performance was attended by friends and family, Age Exchange visitors and one or two invited guests from Unity Theatre and others arts groups.

Audience feedback was very enthusiastic. The subject matter was seen as exciting and challenging for the students and explored issues that raised questions about contemporary society as well as the past. The students all mentioned how much the production had affected them and how proud they were to have taken part and parents said how glad they were that their children had had the opportunity to explore these moments in history.

The play was subsequently performed by Blackheath Conservatoire Youth Theatre at the Bonnie Bird Theatre Laban as part of the 2012 Lewisham Intergenerational Festival.