‘Born and Bread’ is all about theatre. But the four performances by Brighton People’s Theatre at the end of September in the Attenborough Centre for the Creative Arts (ACCA) offer much more than that.
This (fictional) tale was inspired by conversations and stories contributed by a range of over 100 people living in Brighton. They shared their stories about food, belonging, and the meaning of ‘home’. In short, ‘Born and Bread’ has involved a massive creative piece involving people from many different countries and backgrounds who now live in our increasingly diverse city.
We caught up with Naomi Alexander (producer) and Jack Parris (writer) at Brighton People’s Theatre for whom this production is “the culmination of quite a few years of work”. The theme of food – and especially bread – was chosen “as a way to explore a lot of the topics that came up in people’s inspiration meetings about inequality in the city”. The team undertook about a hundred interviews across Brighton and Hove and went on to speak with a range of supportive local organisations including Brighton & Hove Food Partnership and Brighton Food Co-op, as well as food banks in Whitehawk and Bevendean, to mention just a few.
This connection to food extends into the heart of the performance with the making of pizza, soups or bread taking place on stage while people tell stories about their lives. Drawing in a dramaturge – a person who may help edit, research or advise a theatrical team – has helped the team in selecting or crafting the material into a recognisable shape. Naomi and Jack’s intention is to ensure the performance will be both “fun and interesting” as well as “upbeat and enjoyable” for audiences.
Naomi emphasises that the team believes “theatre should be a force to bring people together.” They have also worked hard to include people of colour, working class groups and those with global connections: “So we spend more time and money trying to reach and involve these people.” For Jack, these can demonstrate “the power of the ensemble” together.
The team also emphasise the crucial role of funders in supporting the development of their performances. They include Paul Hamlyn Foundation (over three years) as well as the Arts Council, Unity Theatre Trust and, locally, The Trust for Developing Communities, Brighton City Council and several universities.
As Naomi points out, public money often goes to arts and theatre that poorer or less mobile people do not access. Naomi and Jack underlined Catherine Love’s Guardian article from March 2018 which pointed to British theatre’s ‘class problem’. This indicated that the “wealthiest, best educated and least ethnically diverse 8% of the population were still the most ‘culturally active’,” and hence benefited most from subsidised theatres. In contrast, as a charity, Brighton People’s Theatre encourages its audience to choose a ticket price they can afford.
Back in the theatre, we encounter Amina just “down from London” who now lives in Whitehawk with her daughter, Darya. She’s doing everything she can to make Brighton feel like home. But every time she looks out at the sea, it doesn’t quite feel like… home. The audience are invited to join Amina as she takes a chance and accepts an invitation to the community kitchen – a place filled with boisterous bakers, potential friends, real magic – and sweet, sour and salty stories. It’s here that Amina might finally be able to say out loud what’s been troubling her.
This year’s cast for ‘Born and Bred’ will involve 26 Brighton-based or non-professional actors taking the stage. Some may have roots as far away as Bangalore, Columbia, Eritrea, New Delhi, Pune and Syria or as close as Brighton, Croydon or London.
The play, written by Jack Parris and co-directed by Naomi Alexander, has been supported by Tanushka Marah (Guest Editor) and Sarah Sayeed (sound design), along with Ben Pacey (lighting and set design) and Guy Hughes (musical arrangement).
Attenborough Centre for the Creative Arts (ACCA), Sat 30th Sept & Sun 1st Oct 2023 (3.30pm & 8pm)
Photos by Rosie Powell