Eastern Angles’ USP is their indefatigable ability to take high-quality new writing and tour it to every corner of East Anglia…
Year after year after year. Since the theatre company was first founded in 1982 the team have produced over hundred new plays which are performed every year in a myriad of different venues from churches and barns to marquees and pubs. Their latest tour will see a new play, Guesthouse, by Essex-based writer Nicola Werenowska, visit 43 different locations across the East region between March and May. A regular staging-post on this annual tour is The Undercroft theatre at Serpentine Green Shopping Centre, where the theatre company will pitch-up for an evening performance on Thursday 24 May
As the writer explains, this new work will give audiences in Peterborough a real taste of the seaside as it relies heavily on Nicola’s own experience of growing-up in coastal Essex and visiting Clacton-on-Sea. ‘My Nan spent all her life in Clacton and I lived close by as a child, visiting the town every weekend to see her and my aunts, uncles and cousins,’ explains Nicola. ‘Nan used to tell me stories about the Clacton she grew up in, describing its changing identities over time – from a glamorous upper-class holiday resort in the 1920s and 1930s, to a popular post war family destination before the advent of package holidays in the 1960s which started its economic decline, culminating in the shutting of Butlins Holiday Camp in the early ‘80s – “the final nail in the coffin.”
‘I became interested in the idea of how a place changes over time and how the decline of a town affects its inhabitants economically and psychologically. The impact of this economic decline is central to the storyline in Guesthouse and the lives of the three characters.’ Guesthouse focuses on the lives of three generations of women from the same family – a grandmother, her daughter and her granddaughter. For Eastern Angles it seems right, at this moment more than ever, to give women writers the chance to communicate the thoughts and concerns of other women and put ordinary women’s lives centre-stage.
‘We are really proud of our record when it comes to employing women creatives and telling women’s stories,’ says Development Manager Karen Goddard. ‘When it comes to employing actors, directors or designers, we exceed our targets in terms of gender-balance. This year we have Nicky’s Guesthouse play about three women, then in the summer we will be touring a large-scale production of a new play called Polstead by Beth Flintoff with an all-female cast telling the story of Maria Marten and the red barn from the woman’s perspective, and then in the Autumn we will be staging a reading of a new script by Peterborough playwright Julie Mayhew called Buried Women which connects the lives of six extraordinary women and allows their hidden stories to be heard. And then, as a backdrop to all this, we have the continuation of our Heritage Lottery Funded project Delivered by Freemans which highlights the story of Peterborough’s very own “Freeman’s Five” – a group of women who worked at Freeman’s Distribution Centre and tirelessly campaigned and won the right to equal pay for work of equal value.’
For Nicky Werenowska, writing Guesthouse is an opportunity to explore what it is like when the place you were proud to grow up in becomes impoverished and what it takes to stick around in that same location and keep going. ‘I like to create strong female characters in my work and in this case wanted to explore how three different generations of women are affected by changes in the place they live,’ explains Nicky. ‘I did a lot of research with Clacton residents of varying ages as I was developing the piece and spoke to several women who talked about how they had managed to hold everything together in Clacton’s dark times and stay strong. I find that interesting – that sense of survival and refusal to give in to external pressures.’
● To book tickets for Guesthouse visit www.easternangles.co.uk or ring the Eastern Angles Box Office on: 01473 211498