We take a look back at the creative process behind 2066, a play inspired by a series of Almeida Participation workshops exploring mother-daughter relationships.
Assistant Director on 2066 Bethany Kapila describes the process of putting on our latest short play.
It has been a week since our final performance of 2066 by Sonali Bhattacharaya and directed by Dani Parr. With only one week of rehearsals with our cast Sophie Melville and Sarah Goddard, the time pressure meant that nerves were jangling. But, with a smooth technical and dress rehearsal we knew that we had an excellent show on our hands. On Monday morning, it was time for us to get on to the set of ‘Oil’, and create our own world for 2066.
The production photo above show the simplistic set, with just a table and two chairs taking on the many different locations that the characters visited during the play. We placed two prop tables on stage, for ease of access for the actors to quickly change their costumes and resume the performance. This was highly effective, as we made a point of heightening the transitions with music and costume changes being lit on stage. With the addition of lighting and atmospheric music, the feel of the piece became quite electrifying. See more on our Facebook page.
For myself, the Assistant Director, and Hayley the Stage Manager, we looked after all of the props resetting every item in to its pre-set position before each performance. This was aided by having a detailed pre-set list that detailed where everything needed to be set on stage or on the prop tables.
We had many of our participants who contributed to the development of the script in the audience, which created a really generous and excitable atmosphere. It was also a fantastic opportunity to publicly show the documentary that film-maker Jaha Browne created about the research and development process for this production. You're able to watch the film below.
The response from the audience and participants was overwhelmingly positive, with people connecting to the mother-daughter relationship and the wider social commentary of the piece. The participants were thrilled to see their real life stories and input being brought to life on the Almeida stage.
2066 Stage Manager Hayley Mitchell sat down with playwright Sonali Bhattacharyya to talk through using multiple personal stories into a single narrative.
How did you manage to incorporate all the stories from the women you met?
The idea wasn't for me to incorporate all of the women's stories, but to draw on them as a source of inspiration for the play. My approach was to give myself a couple of days after the workshops had finished to reflect on the incredibly moving, and personal stories shared, and look for any unifying/recurring themes among them. The issue of parental responsibility and duty came up more than once, as did the idea of sacrifice, and specific examples of sacrifice. There were also some really interesting stories where the women displaced their fears about parenthood and the future of their children onto something else.
How did you go about imagining the world of 2066?
'Oil' is partly about our exploitation of a natural resource, and the fact we take it for granted. I wanted to explore something else we're losing but have taken for granted - universal healthcare. Pregnancy felt like an evocative and rich issue in a play about mothers and daughters, so it made sense to imagine what a woman experiencing an unexpectedly complicated pregnancy would face post-NHS. I researched private healthcare and two tier models in other countries, such as the U.S and Germany, which helped me create the world Kara and Eve live in. It seemed clear, in turn, that education wouldn't be free in this world, either, which has knock on consequences in the story. Additionally, I imagined a post-Brexit England where there is now a hard border with Scotland, which adds another dimension of entrapment and jeopardy for the characters. I've made it sound like a very bleak piece, but there is an abundance of love and hope in the play! Dani Parr, the director, described it as a 'call to arms', which I think is apt.
What has it been like writing a play in such a short time?
Challenging! Fortunately I'm the sort of writer who can write quite quickly once I have a clear and compelling concept. I started with the characters, Eve and Kara, and initially explored the dynamic between the two of them. As the story formed, I identified key scenes I felt were necessary or dramatically interesting, and the larger piece grew from there. The play is formally quite ambitious - as well as taking place in the future, the story is also told across several time lines, so another challenge was balancing the need for drama and intrigue with clarity for the audience. I managed to write three drafts in about three weeks, and each one has been a significant development from the last. We were really fortunate to have a fantastic cast in Sarah Goddard and Sophie Melville, just hearing the play read aloud by them for the first time in rehearsals was brilliant.
Find out more about our Participation programme and how to get involved at almeida.co.uk/participate