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We are currently in the thick of the fourth week of rehearsals for Another England, my new play, due to be performed at ARC Stockton on 18 May. It’s a busy but incredibly fulfilling stage in the process as the actors pull lots of threads together.
The piece is set in England 2022, when a national identity crisis is in full swing, exploring what it’s like to fall between the cracks. It’s a dynamic, lively piece with representations of social exclusion and surreal satire, brilliantly performed by Philippa Cole as Rat and Andrew McLay as Murphy.
The subject matter is dark: Rat and Murphy, our two protagonists, have been stripped of their citizenship on the basis of being disabled people and shipped off to camps, but are currently on the run. However, just as in the disability community, we have explored a fantastically subversive underworld of humour and identity which pervades the piece, bringing a sense of colour and vibrancy.
Murphy is a cantankerous old grouch, a bigot, who Rat would normally go to the ends of the earth to avoid. Rat has a social conscience, based on the experiences of her Mum’s lifetime of mis-diagnosis in mental health services, and challenges Murphy’s thinking. Both have been drawn to a derelict house on the outskirts of town and both feel they have a reason for being there, whilst neither wants the other there.
With both of them in hiding, a story of a painful past emerges which directly connects Murphy to the house, a house he feels is his birth right, whilst Rat demands the house is hers as she was there before Murphy – or so she thinks.
They make a pact to play a series of games and whoever wins gets to stay in the house, whilst the other must return to the camps. Rat ensures that the games reveal a lot about identity, and how both mainstream culture and history have impacted on theirs. As the drama unfolds, an England based on a lie emerges, but who will get to stay.
(Rehearsal photos with Philippa Cole and Andrew McLay)
Vici Wreford-Sinnott is a disabled playwright and theatre director, who has worked in theatre for over 25 years. She champions disability equality in culture, is interested in the aesthetics of difference, and the power of theatre to bring about change. Vici is currently Artistic Director of Little Cog, a disabled-led theatre company, is Creative Lead of Cultural Shift, and is an Associate Artist of ARC Stockton.