Free Time

Eastern Angles: Sense of place

Eastern Angles have not one, but two new shows coming to Peterborough – Ground and The (Fletton) Railway Children both firmly rooted in the locale and the community. The Moment talks to director Poppy Rowley about the new productions and her role as Eastern Angles’ resident Artistic Associate

What are these two new plays and how did they come about?
Both Ground and The (Fletton) Railway Children are part of Engine Room – an Eastern Angles’ project aimed at developing the work of new, local writers on themes relevant to Peterborough. Eastern Angles is all about making theatre with a sense of place, and all our work is new writing. We may take old stories – such as the lives of the Brontes or the nativity – but really it is about what Peterborough has to offer now, encouraging pride in the area and exploring the work of the community.

First up is Ground – what can you tell us about that?
Ground is about the welfare system, and exploring people’s involvement with it. We’re doing a series of interviews asking what their experiences have been and the writer, Aisha Zia, is creating a script from that. The key aim is to show their experiences truthfully, and we’re hoping to invite MPs, councillors and other people in positions of power, as well as the people it is about. We want this to end on a note of hope so we can make changes for the better. It’s multi-disciplinary, in that there will be live music, live projections, but ultimately it’s about encouraging people to look around them and work together as a community.

What is The (Fletton) Railway Children and how does it relate to the story we all know?
It’s written by Julie Mayhew, a Peterborough writer whose dad and granddad both worked on the railways in Peterborough, and it’s set in the 1960s – so with a great 60s soundtrack! In the original Railway Children they move to York, but in this Bobbie, Phyllis and Peter have moved to Peterborough. It’s about growing up and the responsibilities that come with that, as well as the loss of innocence and youth. Bobbie, who is 17, is coming to terms with adulthood in the 60s, a time of the sexual revolution… It’s also about Peterborough growing up exploring the effect of the Beeching Report when lots of railway lines across the country were shut down. Peterborough was affected by that because there used to be Peterborough North and Peterborough East, but Peterborough East was shut down and Peterborough North became Peterborough’s railway station. That changed the way people engaged with Peterborough, but also the new station grew to become the gateway to the north. Over the next ten years, it begins to be developed into a new town – so this is sort of set during the adolescent, hormonal stage of Peterborough… Bobbie and Peterborough growing up together! There will also be lots of stuff about trains, so if you’re into that it will also appeal!

Tell us a bit about your role…
Eastern Angles is based in Ipswich, but as you know we have been in Peterborough for about seven years now, developing lots of different shows. They have been getting bigger, so I have been working for Eastern Angles since July 2015 specifically on and in Peterborough. We have another person – the poet, Keely Mills – who works parttime here and I’m full-time – we’re like the Peterborough branch! My role is to direct shows, but I’m also about encouraging more engagement with theatre in general, running workshops and organising projects, of which we have quite a few at the moment!

And is it true you moved to Peterborough specifically for this?
I moved to Peterborough from London. I didn’t have to, but to do my job properly I felt I needed to know what was going on in the evenings and weekends and get to know the people who live here – so I did. Before coming to live in Peterborough I’d only ever been through on the train, but after moving here my mum’s partner did some research and discovered that my great great grandmother was christened in St John’s church and lived in the Cathedral precinct. So it turns out I had a connection after all!

Ground runs from 5-8 October, and The (Fletton) Railway Children 26 October-5 November. Both are performed at The Undercroft (in the basement of Serpentine Green Shopping Centre).  

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