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Natasha Langridge wrote her monologue, titled In Memory of Leaves, in the wake of her home on the Wornington Green Estate in Kensington being demolished. They are a series of personal notes that she started performing in May of this year, a month before the Grenfell Tower tragedy. Now, she’s taking the show around London, performing the piece on a wide beam barge. Beginning the run at the Meanwhile Gardens, before travelling to Camden Lock and Hackney Wick. We spoke to Langridge about why she’s taking the piece to the waters, and how Grenfell affected her writing.
Why have you chosen to do this piece on a barge?
I did this as a site-specific piece on the estate I live on because that’s very much where the piece is set. But after that, I wanted to do it somewhere that wasn't really a theatre. I went to an activist event on this boat and I thought, “oh my god, this is it”. The reason is because it’s emotional – water is emotional – I wanted it to go through London and connect other communities that are going through regeneration, I wanted to take my piece to people rather than make them come to me, I wanted to connect boaters because they’re being affected by regeneration. If you go down to the canals in London they’re full of boats because so many people buy them because, how else do you afford to live in London?
It’s got a rhythm because it sways when I move. The piece is very rhythmic and it works really well. I guess it works because it’s a vessel of movement and change, and that very much underpins the feeling of the piece.
Is it a big boat? Are you going to fit many people on board?
We’ll only get 35-40 people on. My piece is very personal and intimate, and it’s going to feel very intimate. It’s going to be an experience for everyone who comes to watch it. Another reason for doing it is that it’s taking people out of their normal environment. I guess it gives people a bit of distance from their lives and what we’re talking about because they’re in a different space.
You’ve performed the piece before (on land) haven’t you?
I performed it on a stage that was in a tiny amphitheatre at the back of my block of flats on the Wornington Green Estate. And I performed it in Rome as well which was really interesting because I wasn’t sure if people would connect to it. But they were very touched and moved by it, and one of the audience members composed me a piece of music – a good piece of music, too!
Regeneration in North Kensington has become much more of a talking point since you first started performing the piece. Have you had to change the content?
I got an Arts Council grant earlier in the year, and then Grenfell happened. That’s 10 minutes away from me. People said I should write about it and I thought it felt wrong. But more recently, I’ve been thinking it is wrong not to write about it. How can you do a piece about regeneration in North Kensington and not talk about that?! You can’t ignore it. So I’ve included my perspective of that atrocity. It’s very up to date. It’s performed as a diary and the final date in the diary is 4th October.
Is it your diary?
No, it’s not my diary, but it is my journey and my experience. It my personal perspective and personal journey of living through regeneration in North Kensington, of visiting the refugees in North Kensington, having a traumatic love affair, of being arrested protesting, of being a woman, of London now. I think it says a lot about London now.
In Memory of Leaves opens on the Fordham Gallery Barge at Meanwhile Gardens on 4th October before travelling to Camden Lock (11th - 14th October) and Hackney Wick (18th - 21st October). Click here for tickets.
Photo courtesy Yui Mok