LOST NATION: An Interview with Director Topher Campbell
Topher Campbell’s new Production, “Lost Nation” is both Play and Documentary, set and performed in various unusual venues around Brent.
We spoke to Topher about the piece and how he devised such an original concept.
This is an unusual way to perform a piece of theatre. Can you explain a bit about what audience members can expect from Lost Nation?
Well, in terms of form I don’t want to give too much away. What we hope however is that the work will introduce the audience to the primary ideas and themes of the project by creating a story-telling experience. It’s site-specific taking the audience member on a journey from the moment they buy their ticket. I would say it’s a bit like going on a fair-ground ride for the mind; fun, interesting and thought-provoking.
Overall we want to inspire people to partake in the conversation about what is unjust and what is right in society. We want the audience to ask the questions we have been asking, what kind of society do we want to live in? How do we want to treat people in society?
How did this idea come about?
Lost Nation is an answer to the stereotypes that surround people on low or no wages.
Currently we are not getting to see or hear the stories of the people who are living in poverty. A lot of people are in this situation because of unfortunate circumstances, the recession, class differences, but we just hear stories from various authorities, which label them skivers and shirkers. To get the true picture we need to give the people affected a chance to be heard. Lost Nation began with this aim.
8 months ago we started speaking to people in Brent, asking them to tell us their stories about living in poverty. Since then we have considered how we cast the right stories based on the ideas behind the production, what they mean locally and how they connect to the bigger experience. We now have 4 verbatim theatre pieces, which will be performed alongside a specially commissioned documentary.
What is The Poverty Project?
The Poverty Project is a response to Government policy regarding cuts to welfare and civil society. It is a commitment to giving the financially marginalized individuals in society a chance to be heard. Since 2011 we have produced 3 big events as part of The Poverty Project.
These have included Riot Response platform (November 2011), the Broken Britain? platform (October 2012) and the Race + Equality platform (Summer 2013). Lost Nation is the centerpiece of The Poverty Project.
Did the documentary exist first followed by the theatre pieces or viceversa?
The documentary was shot as part of the whole project and will be shown alongside a piece of verbatim theatre each evening during the Lost Nation. It will also be available for people to view online after the project.
Who is this project designed to speak to? Do you have an idea of who you’d like to see this production or is it designed to be seen by anyone?
Everyone will be affected by Lost Nation because it is about people. We live in a society where we look across the road and we don’t know who our neighbours are. We think in terms of ‘them’ and ‘us’. Yet we all know people, for whatever reason, who are struggling and we all have hopes, dreams and aspirations for the future.
These common experiences are what bind us. By taking the stories of people and presenting them through theatre and documentary we can show that what binds us is what can lead us to come together to think differently about the society we live in.
How integral is realism to the show? Would it have the same effect if it was performed in a traditional theatre?
These are real stories, told by real people living in Brent now. Placing these in a theatre would be meaningless. We wanted to present them in the context they had come from so people can relate to what they are experiencing.
What’s your favourite thing about the Brent area, It can’t all be doom and gloom?
For me it is the people that make the borough. It is one of the friendliest boroughs in London. I absolutely love Willesden and Harlesden. These areas show the best of London, lots of cultures, Jewish, Muslim, Jamaican, living side by side.
What’s next for Lost Nation? Is it area-specific, or could the structure be used in other parts of London or the country?
We chose Brent as the site for Lost Nation, because it has extreme levels of wealth and of poverty. As one of the biggest urban boroughs in the country, it has a diverse range of people and languages, with poverty common across all of these communities.
This doesn’t mean however that this is the only place that Lost Nation could take place, there are many places across London and the country with a large number of people living in poverty. Therefore, although Lost Nation is site-specific, the model, talking to people and representing their views, is adaptable to any location.
Show: Lost Nation by The Red Room
Venue: Various across the London Borough of Brent. Ticket holders are informed of the venue location upon ticket purchase.
Dates: 24 – 28 July 2013
Times: 6pm & 8pm (Weds – Sat), 4pm, 6pm & 8pm (Sun) (average running time 90mins)
Prices: £15 (£12 concs)
£5 Ticket off for local residents. To retrieve this offer, go to the eventbrite page, select full price ticket then enter the promotion code ILOVEBRENT.