Last night, we performed Near Gone to a full house. Nothing too unusual about that. But there were two things that made it rather special.
One was the date. It was five years to the day since the events which inspired the show. So it was quite an emotionally charged day.
The other was the reason we were there. A group of local people, who had never been to the theatre before, had been part of a project which took them to Edinburgh last August. They watched some shows at the festival, and they had a good time. They liked watching theatre, it turned out, or some theatre.
And they wanted to share the experience with other people. When they talked about it, Near Gone was the show they wanted to share with other people in their local community.
So last night, we were at their local Sports and Community Centre. There was a tombola, which we hadn’t had at a performance before. There was a DJ, which we have had before. There were stalls from local people selling drinks and food, which was much better than many ‘normal’ venues offer. There were lots of people who knew each other, chatting.
Not everyone was very local. Some had come from 25 miles away, across the Tyne! But they were really invested. They were a really warm, responsive audience, and their comments afterwards told us they had ‘got’ the piece in ways which professional programmers sometimes aren’t sure their audiences can handle.
It felt really special.
Of course, not every show can be like that — it took a lot of preparation and support to enable the event to happen, long before we were involved — but it demonstrated something about how communities can be really invested in and excited by theatre. It was something worth celebrating.