This week we were invited by Vocal Point to join them at their first rehearsal of Mooring at the Brunel Museum. After a sneak-peak of the play, we caught up with the cast and team behind this exciting new piece of theatre...
Led by Director and Playwright Abraham Parker and Producer Sophia Porter, Vocal Point was founded in Glasgow in 2013 with the aim to create raw socially engaged theatre. Over the last three years, that’s exactly what they’ve done. Tackling issues such as mental health, homelessness and dysfunctional family life, this young theatre company have hit the ground running addressing some of the most pressing social issues today. Mooring is no exception.
An intimate two-hander staged in the atmospheric, subterranean new performance space at the Brunel Museum, Mooring is a story with homelessness at its heart. Loosely based on the true story of a man who lived on the river at Hammersmith in a make-shift houseboat, who had his home and possessions destroyed by local teenagers and as a result found himself homeless, Mooring is an interpretation of his life – presenting a fictional relationship between Samuel and Tom - a young, bright-eyed and earnest twenty-something Londoner working for a housing association in an effort to try and make a difference. The friendship between Samuel and Tom is at the centre of the play. Simon Parker, who plays Samuel, explains that in its purest form, Mooring is a ‘story about two lonely men who find a meeting point…within that there’s a political viewpoint about capitalism in terms of how it’s affected us living alongside each other but it’s not explicit within the play, its carried along in the current with what’s going on’.
Back in 2013, Vocal Point spent 10 months volunteering in a soup kitchen in Glasgow and running weekly drama sessions as part of their creative research and development for their play ‘Bloom’ - based on the lives of two individuals they met at the kitchen, which went on to tour successfully across the UK and to Greece. The experience left Parker with a continued commitment to exploring the issue of homelessness - ‘it was directly engaging with people’s stories – and actually, on a very human level, being side by side with people and realising how easy it could be for any of us to fall into homelessness. I just didn’t feel disconnected from anyone. I feel like in the times that we live in at the moment, especially in London, everyone’s just a couple of pay checks away from not having any money at all’.
Mooring reminds the audience of the fragility of London living and questions the way in which we respond to those surviving on the streets of the city. The strapline on the poster reads ‘Cranes and Cardboard’ – capturing the polarising chasm in London housing. Porter remarks that ‘the impetus behind the play from the outset is the idea that sometimes the most marginalised people in our society are often the most despised – and I think that’s because for people to be able to accept that part of life they have to alienate themselves from it. What you see in this story is someone who has opened up a dialogue with someone and made a connection, and I suppose what we’re trying to do is, through storytelling, make that connection and stop that alienation which allows you to villainize people who are already really vulnerable and make them the demons of society rather than being the victims of society’.
The legacy of their work as potential for social change is important to Vocal Point. After Mooring’s run at the Brunel Museum for Totally Thames, Vocal Point are working with Cardboard Citizens – the UK’s leading theatre company who have been making life-changing theatre with and for homeless people for over 20 years. They plan to take the play into community centres and hostels around London. Parker explains that ‘although it might make a great tale in a book, on a stage, or as a story that you tell over a pint, there’s got to be more engagement with the actual circumstances in terms of what we as artists can do to try and take our work to the places, to the people who are being affected by these things’.
Even in these first stages of rehearsal it’s clear that the engaging, quick-witted and intelligent writing of Parker promises to be brilliantly executed by actors Simon Parker and Brian Parry. As the two generations, two social classes, two walks of life intertwine we are invited to share in their discussions of lost love, politics, the blissful ignorance of humorous pre-Brexit banter and the quest for the perfect sandwich filling. Mooring is funny, it’s moving, it’s relevant – and we can’t wait to see it.
Mooring runs from Thursday 1 September – Friday 9 September, 7:45pm – 8:45pm, Brunel Museum Sinking Shaft, Railway Avenue, Rotherhithe, London, SE16 4LF