In October last year, I took part in a production cleverly directed my friend Elli Johnson for the Everyman in Liverpool. Elli’s work, called 23, formed part of the Everyword New Writing Festival. Her production took place over a series of locations. She mentioned this allotment she had discovered just off Back Canning Street and asked me to write something for it. The allotment is almost hidden; a small oasis nestled between Georgian terraces off Hope Street, quiet except for the faint piano music trailing down from the LIPA building nearby….such a great setting!
I couldn’t possibly do Elli’s entire production any justice by describing it here, so I’ll just do a quick overview of how the allotment segment was used:
The audience got a map with 23 destinations that were within walking distance of the theatre (so cool, right?). At each stop there was something interesting and intriguing to engage with. At one of the stops was this suitcase below….inside it was a scale model of an allotment with a washing line overhead sporting a selection of ballroom dancing clothing…
Then you had so take a postcard from the envelope in the suitcase lid…
On the back of the postcard was a list of 23 items. The next destination on the map took you around the corner to the actual allotment, where lifesized ballroom dancing outfits were displayed on a washing line. The list belongs to Hannah and this is her allotment…and her story.
Hannah is a divorced mother of two boys (Ben and Sam) and she’s busy. She works for the council as a programme support officer in the finance division. She lurks between the columns and rows of spreadsheets, adding them up every day.
When she’s not looking after her elderly mum and boys she lovingly tends her allotment and does ballroom dancing at a local dance studio down the road. She dreams of one day performing at the Magnificent Grand Ballroom at the Encore Resort in Las Vegas competing in the NV Dancesport championships. Nobody knows how big and how real this dream is. She secretly hoards sequins and tulle and neon lycra. While she plants seeds and digs up weeds she designs her dream ballroom outfits dripping with rhinestones and shimmering in metallic shoes.
Her life is otherwise ordinary, mostly powering through the school run, work, shopping, errands for her mum, cooking, cleaning gardening and then dreaming. She manages her life with lists. Every night before bed she plans her day ahead.
Today was her day off and she wanted to get a lot things done. She was running late and her to do list fell out of her handbag. She had 23 things that had to get done today.