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Preview: This Restless State at Newcastle Alphabetti

Fuel and Ovalhouse present
Newcastle Alphabetti Theatre
Tuesday 17th – Friday 19th April 2018

Created and performed by Jesse Fox
Written by Danielle Pearson

Intimate storytelling and innovative sound design combine in This Restless State, a new collaboration between writer Danielle Pearson and performer Jesse Fox. Weaving together three stories from across Europe at different times – in 1989 around the fall of the Berlin Wall, in London in 2017, and in Rome in 2052 – each considers the personal and political choices we make and the fact that our beliefs and our personal feelings don’t always match up.

Fuel and Ovalhouse have co-commissioned this new solo performance which arrives in Newcastle on the 17th April, leading audiences on a journey across our continent’s past, present and future in a story of family, national identity, conflict and love.

Jesse Fox says ‘I’ve been interested in making a show about European identity for a long time. I was defining myself more comfortably as European than British and I realised that this is not a universal experience. As Europe finds itself increasingly plagued by schisms and challenges, I’ve begun questioning my assumptions about how important national identity and a sense of home are to people and I’ve discovered that perhaps being British is more important to me than I initially expected.’

This Restless State builds on the success of Jesse Fox’s recent shows with his company Engineer Theatre Collective, which have seen his work nominated for various Off West End Awards and featured in The New Yorker.

He is collaborating with Danielle Pearson, Playwright in Residence at the Watermill Theatre and the winner of the EU Collective Plays! Competition, and Jemima James - Associate Director on ‘The Encounter’ by Complicit√©.

The North East Theatre Guide caught up with Jesse Fox, the creator and performer of This Restless State to discuss how preparations for the show were going.

Tell us a little bit about what This Restless State is about.
This Restless State interweaves three family storylines from different eras and places across Europe by exploring how we, as individuals and as a society, try and define our identities. We do this by looking at these individual family stories against the backdrop of seismic political and historical events of their times.
We’re really interested in how we both individually and collectively balance that interesting tension between the past and future. How do we make sure we’re not held back by our pasts whilst simultaneously acknowledging and respecting that our pasts have brought us here today and will move us towards the future?

How did the idea for the show come about?
I’d been really interested in making a show about European identity for a long time because I thought I defined myself more comfortably as European first and British second. I realized this wasn’t the experience of many other people living in this country and the last couple of years have obviously brought all these sorts of questions to the fore. I’ve started questioning how important my national identity and sense of home are to me. They are, in fact, more important to me than I initially expected.

What would you say to an audience member unsure about whether to come along? What would be one reason for them to watch the show?
Well, there are some pretty fantastic David Hasselhoff references which I think is a movement that definitely needs reviving… there’s also some cheesy dancing to go with it.

The piece travels through three time periods, with one set in the future. Does this future feel like a reality to you?
Yes, although obviously there are endless permutations of what that could be, so we’ve picked one that we feel we’re moving towards. It’s a future where our continent is struggling with its own sense of identity and where the people within it are trying to define themselves in the context of big external pressures. There’s an implied sense of climate change which has applied pressure on citizens through the mass movement of people and displacement in unprecedented numbers. It’s a future that I think is plausible, although not necessarily the definitive one. It’s quite pessimistic in some ways but optimistic in others. We’ve tried hard not to make it too sci-fi-ey, so we haven’t filled it with mad robots, although I do think that is another possible future.

Was the show originally inspired by Brexit? And if so, how has it influenced your work?
Originally the piece wasn’t inspired by Brexit, but inevitably it has very strong links. You’re right to ask about Brexit as an inspiration for the show because I think any show made about Europe in this country, or any show reflecting on questions of identity, are immediately linked to the referendum. What interests me is how Brexit seems to have polarized our country. Our ability to listen, tolerate and acknowledge different points of view seems to have declined. I find it interesting that when you ask people a very black and white question, you will most likely get a very black and white response which instantly causes a divide. For me, the point of doing the show is to encourage people to think about how they listen to other points of view and to acknowledge the assumptions that we make on both sides of the debate.

What would you like audiences to take away from watching the show?
I hope that audiences will go away with a sense that the feelings of uncertainty and frustration that many are currently experiencing, regardless of political leniency, have in some way been acknowledged by the show. We want to offer a space where feeling unsure and wanting to make sense of it all, is affirmed as a valid reaction to have at this political crossroads.

Funded by Arts Council England and the Leche Trust. Development supported by Engineer Theatre Collective. Co-commissioned by Ovalhouse.

This Restless State comes to Newcastle’s Alphabetti Theatre on Tuesday 17th – Friday 19th April 2018 at 7.30pm.
Alphabetti Theatre is located on St James’ Boulevard (between the Discovery Museum and the Grainger Multi-story car park, which has free parking after 5), Newcastle Upon Tyne, NE1 4 HP
These are “Pay what you feel” shows and booking is recommended. Tickets can be reserved via the website: Box Office: 0191 261 9125.

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