In Memory of Leaves on a Boat | Theatre.London
Natasha Langridge tells us about touring London on a canal boat with a tale of destruction and love, In Memory Of Leaves.
Meyer Whitworth Award-winning writer and performer Natasha Langridge tours In Memory Of Leaves around London this October. There's nothing unusual about that. Many shows are on tour around the capital. But she's taking her venue with her. And it floats.
Langridge performs her autobiographical one-woman play aboard the Fordham Gallery Barge, which docks with the production in three locations this autumn.
Inspired by the redevelopment of her home and her experiences in the Calais refugee camp, it's a tale of home and what happens when that is taken away from you.
Natasha Langridge tells us more:
"From my window, I'd just watched the massacre of a beautiful old park by developers. It was part of our estate's 'regeneration' in North Kensington. It broke my heart to see the trees being pulled up and chopped down."
"I had to write about it. I was compelled. I couldn't stop them cutting the trees down; I tried but they wouldn't listen. But I could write, voice my protest, process my outrage and connect to my community, who all mourn the loss. Some of my neighbours had played, sat, loved, walked their dogs in that park all their lives. That place was integral to our community."
"So originally, In Memory Of Leaves was a site-specific piece. I performed the beginning of the monologue in the replacement park the developers made, which one of my neighbours describes as 'a cage for people'. I then took the audience to a tiny amphitheatre at the back of my block of flats. During the performance they discovered that the place in which they were sitting — this tiny amphitheatre — was soon to be demolished, allowing them to share a glimpse of the unease felt by those who live there."
'In Memory Of Leaves is a receptacle for a community of voices. It reflects the experience of people living in a shifting landscape. And though it's specifically about places on our estate, it's also global. We are not the only people living through uncertain times."
"In Memory Of Leaves tells the story of the park, the amphitheatre and my experiences at the refugee camp in Calais, all framed within a love story. Those first performances touched the people who saw it. I was invited to a theatre in Rome, where one of the audience members composed me a piece of music. Another drew me a bird singing in a tree!"
"I knew I had to get the show to more people in London. Just as I was thinking about where might be a suitable venue, I went to an event about the Charter Of The Forest (the forerunner to the Magna Carta) set up by a friend from Occupy on a wide-beam canal boat, which happened to be the Fordham Gallery Barge."
"I knew this was it. This was where I wanted to do the show for its next incarnation. A boat embodies movement and change. The water is a symbol of emotion. And the piece is from the heart, which is something we must never lose. It's something the bulldozers, cranes and drills cannot demolish."
"I want to move through the water connecting up to the other estates, places and people who are being affected by the regeneration of our city and by its chronic lack of decent and genuinely affordable housing. The canals are full to bursting now, with boats as homes, as its one of the only ways to live in London if you're not rich."
"For the first week of performances on our barge — which is also its owner's home — I've chosen Meanwhile Gardens on the Regent's Canal (beneath Trellick Tower) as our dock. It's near the estate I live on in North Kensington. We will move on to Camden Lock, where the whole market is under threat of regeneration, as well as the local housing estates. Hackney Wick on the River Lea will be our last dock. It is being gentrified out of all recognition.
"I want those social-housing tenants who are living in fear of being chucked out of their homes to come see the show. I want boaters to come. I want people who live in private housing but are unsettled by the destruction they see around them to come. I want them all to come and sit in the same boat to listen to a story about displacement and love. As the water shifts beneath us."
In Memory Of Leaves runs on the Fordham Gallery Barge from 4 to 21 October.
Interview by Matthew Amer, 26 September 2017.