Love London Love Culture Interview
Hi Natasha, could you tell me a little bit more about In Memory of Leaves and what audiences can expect?
A rhythmic roller coaster of passion, rage, sex and politics. It’s the raw truth from the mouth of someone (me) living through the emotional and physical consequences of ‘regeneration’ on an estate in North Kensington. Performed on a boat that sways when I move.
What was the main inspiration for the show?
I was originally compelled to write it after seeing the park beneath my window being massacred by developers and then watching them demolish my home. But since Grenfell I’ve updated the script to include that atrocity from my personal perspective. It’s only ten minutes from the estate I live on and where the piece is set. I want to help shine a light on it and what led up to it.
How did you feel when you went about creating In Memory of Leaves?
A sense of urgency. I want to tell people what is going on here.
With the shows being performed on barges across London, how do you think that will help enhance the story?
We are taking people out of their normal environment and into a vessel that embodies the themes of the piece-movement and change. It is also a rhythmic, poetic and emotional piece. The boat on the water underpins these elements. We are also much closer to nature there on the canals with the swans and Moor Hens swimming by. In Memory of Leaves draws strongly on nature in its imagery.
I took my lighting designer down to the boat recently to watch a run. He stopped writing lighting notes a few minutes in. At the end he described the piece as visceral and intense. And said that he didn’t want to get off the boat! I hope that’s a good omen. It’s a very personal piece and as we can only fit forty people into the barge per performance it will be an aptly intimate and unique experience. And doing it in three different locations that are all suffering from the effects of regeneration will hopefully connect those communities.
What do you hope audiences will take away from the show?
Compassion. Because without that change can’t come. And the conviction to contribute to creating change, however you can, in the way our society is being run. The establishment is robbing us people of our assets for their own profit. They are hurting and killing people. We can stop them. We have to keep speaking out and keep protecting our communities. If we all pull together change can come. But most importantly we have to hold on to our humanity – our hearts. And I hope that my piece will kindle a flame in audiences’ hearts. I hope that the experience we will all share in during the show there in the boat will engender a warm sense of togetherness – something the bulldozers and cranes out there cannot demolish.
How does In Memory of Leaves compare with your other work?
All my work is about people who live on the fringes of ‘society.’ But I’m not usually the subject of the work. And, until In Memory of Leaves, I hadn’t performed my own work. This is personal.
With stories like Grenfell and the immigration crisis across Europe making the news – do you think that the meaning of ‘home’ and ‘community’ has changed somewhat in 2017?
Well – many people, homes and communities are being smashed and broken by wars. I have included my visit to ‘the Jungle’ in Calais in the play and the inhabitants I met there had mostly all flown from war zones. And here in London, as we have seen with Grenfell, communities have not only been smashed but have lost their lives and their loved ones lives at the hands of negligent councils and developers. I am witnessing the last years of a very close community here on my estate in North London as we go through ‘regeneration’. The community is being dispersed and the more wealthy and new rich are moving in . All the shops are changing. Now on Goldbourne there are still street food stalls, bric-a-brac stalls, Portuguese coffee shops, a corner shop everyone uses and chats in. In three years who knows what will be left of it.
If you could sum up In Memory of leaves – how would you describe it?
A love letter to London and a revolutionary call to the world.
Have you any future plans for In Memory of Leaves or have you got new projects that you are working on?
I’m talking to producers about taking it out on tour around the country and possibly beyond. And, funnily enough, I’m writing a play about female pirates.