One of the first shows I programmed as a rookie venue director 15 years ago was Kay Adshead’s Bogus Woman. In the small intimate surroundings of 21 South Street Norma Dumezweni tour de force performance blew me away. I came away shaking, as if someone had punched me in the stomach. I still remember it is if it were yesterday, and Kay’s beautiful but blistering text has been on my shelves ever since.
‘Kay Adshead’s angry stripped down script bleeds humanity…words in Adshead’s hands are bullets. Brace yourself and see this play’ The Independent
‘Adshead’s words are fragile and beautiful, angry and raw…Dumenezweni is magnificent as the frightened but raging Bogus Woman’ The Scotsman
When I first started talking about co-producing (with Hightide and Soho Theatre) Lampedusa, I knew I wanted to do something with Bogus Woman too. Lampedusa (which has just returned to Soho Theatre after its initial sell out run) arrives at Unity in September with a plethora of **** reviews (though for a dissenting voice read Matt Trueman’s piece here)..
‘His best yet…brave, bold and moving’ Guardian, ‘Powerfully affective’ The Independent, ‘Essential…heartening’Financial Times ‘Shattering’ The Times ‘A powerful plea for empathy’ The Stage ‘Activism starting with self’ Exeunt ‘a bold proclamation against the apathy surrounding immigration issues’
I originally thought of pairing Lampedusa with a rehearsed reading of Bogus Woman, and had started conversations with Kay, when Theatre in the Lake and Curtis Productions approached me about a revival of their incredibly successful 2008 production. It was both good fortune and something of a non brainer. So now in 2015, Coronation Street actress Krissi Bohn steps into Norma’s shoes, and on the final two days of the Lampedusa run you’ll be able to see both shows in one evening. See here for reviews and pictures from the current production.
Liverpool is, of course, an official dispersal area for Asylum seekers and a city who owes much of its proud history to the sea, and indeed travel, so both pieces feel vital and important. Both too are in the spirit of the original Unity Theatre – radical, accessible, urgent political theatre. Whilst Lampedusa is a hope-filled howl about what is happening today, Bogus Woman, now 15 years old, forces us to ask how much has really changed. Jack Straw is no longer home secretary but would the Young Woman’s story be any different today?
But we wanted to add more to this rich mix. So we have invited five local companies (Unity’s own Youth Theatre with Joe Ward Monro, 20 Stories High, Action Transport, Clapperboard and Collective Encounters) to create short, immediate new theatre works which will precede certain performances of Lampedusa. Local organisation Asylum Link will be joined by Lampedusa playwright Anders Lustgarten and Bogus Woman team members to present the Destitution Roadshow which explores why asylum seekers come to Liverpool and what happens to them mixing video, personal testimony and factual presentations, and Collective Encounters are presenting a masterclass in political playwrighting.
It’s an exciting programme of work about an incredibly vital, real and urgent set of issues. I do hope you will join the debate.