The Common 2018: a conversation between the generations

The Common explores difference, diversity, and division, inviting you to step into somebody else’s beliefs, and play their perspective through a series of immersive games.

It’s previously been developed at Theatre Delicatessen and Barbican Open Labs, and we’re presenting it this week at Battersea Arts Centre. Performances are on Friday 16th and Saturday 17th March, 7pm, PWYW. We’d love to see you there – book here to come along.

This time, The Common is about young versus old, the future versus the past, in a sly contest between the generations. Team ‘young’ is led by Coney Associate Segen Yosef, and team ‘old’  is captained by theatre maker Iain Bloomfield.

We caught up with Iain and Segen this week to get their thoughts on the project – read on to hear from them.

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What’s the most important thing we should know about The Common?

Iain: It’s about difference and how we mediate it. We’re living in a difficult and often divisive time, and there’s something important about being playful around that, rather than getting red-faced and veiny-necked about it. 

Segen: I agree, the The Common allows a space to celebrate and acknowledge difference. But it’s also about having people represented from the younger generation (which is me), and showing that their views matter. I think most of the time, we get chucked to the side and our opinion isn’t really heard.

On the subject of ‘Young vs old,’ what’s most exciting about that theme for each of you? 

Iain: The idea of actually having a teenage voice being heard is really important. I’m 57, at the tail end of the baby boomers, and the voice of people like me is dominating every sphere from politics to the media. The world has been ours for 50 years, from the invention of teenagers until now, and we’re at a point of big change as that generation starts to die off. We haven’t got any experience of letting the next generation have a voice, and I think that fuels a lot of the anger that’s coming from my generation. Our way of seeing the world isn’t going to last into the future, and that change is frightening. But we need to find ways in which those different voices can have a place. A play space is a really good way of letting differences in opinion be OK.

Segen: I also think that my generation would blame the older generation for what’s happened recently, with refugees, Brexit and everything else. We can allow the younger generation to be heard in The Common, and it’s important to shed light on people who aren’t getting to make an impact, like when we’re talking about how the majority of voters are over 50.

In your exploration so far, have you found any surprising similarities or differences?

Segen: The difference that stuck to me the most was our perspectives on London and the city – I’d view London as somewhere deprived, but Iain would say “it’s the city, it’s where the money’s at”. Whereas I’d have said that about Yorkshire, where Iain’s based. When I’ve travelled outside of London what I’ve seen is the countryside, where everyone’s got 2 acres of land, but apparently it’s not like that. 

Iain: Segen’s idea of Yorkshire is country mansions and rolling hills and that’s not at all my experience of it. A lot of my work is about addressing funding inequalities around the country and I would look at London as a place of abundance. So we spent a lot of yesterday saying “how could you possibly think that?” But we also have a lot in common; we’re both artists, and attitudinally we’re not massively different. I guess the difference between us is not necessarily belief, but more perspective; Segen is starting off in life, and as you go rolling downhill desperately pushing on the brakes, you get a different perspective.

SegenWe found another similarity, talking about clothing and having to prove ourselves. Iain told me that when he was at school, you could tell he was working class because working class people are well-dressed. And I compared that to freshies; people who’ve just come over to the country are the ones with the new trainers and all the swag, whereas people who’ve lived here most of their life just don’t feel the need to prove themselves and get dressed up. That’s another thing, we were both born abroad and came to England when we were young. 

Iain: Which is both a similarity and a difference, because I came to England as the child of British parents and that’s a very different experience from Segen’s. But in slight ways, we both look at this country through the eyes of foreigners – which is quite a useful position to have as an artist.

What will you take away from this week?

Iain: For me it’s a very particular one, because I’m a director-maker not a performer-maker, though I did start off as a performer. So I’m going to take away the sheer pleasure of not being in charge of the process, and the different energy that gives you. But equally, I can’t remember the last time I worked with a 19 year old. That’s huge. 

Segen: The games we’ve been playing are a lot of fun, like grandmother’s footsteps and coin jousting. And alongside that there’s a process of understanding myself through conversations. I’ve been working on versions of The Common for quite a long time with Tassos, so I’m interested to see the difference that comes out of working with Iain. I guess I’m always scouting for new immersive and interactive things to do, which I can then steal and put into my own work! 

Don’t miss the chance to see The Common this Friday 16th and Saturday 17th March, 7pm – booking is open here.

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