Early Days (of a better nation)
Early Days (of a better nation) begins when the revolution is over. The audience become part of a Small Country that can be anything it wants to be. They need to figure out how they can live together, who will lead them and what it means to be a country together – is this a utopia or an evil regime?
This show in development is a response to the worldwide political turbulence over the last few years. We’ve seen new forms of citizenship, protest and participation: Arab Spring, the 2012 riots that took place in London and other English cities, a crowd-sourced constitution in Iceland, the rise (and fall) of Occupy, Anonymous and the Indignados in Spain and Indignant Citizens Movement in Greece.
These dramatic events inspired Coney to develop Early Days (of a better nation) – a new, large-scale show through a dynamic combination of theatre, a playing audience, live soundtrack, video projection and live-streamed media.
Early Days (of a better nation) is being developed in iterative stages with audiences. We started with a simple playtest at Stoke Newington International Airport which led to one ambitious coalition taking the crown. This was followed by two scratches in May 2012 in London and Cardiff which were the first steps towards the development of the show as we tested the game mechanism, currency, technology and narrative.
The scratch events contained elements of constitution, economic cuts, an assassination, a leadership election, an economy of beans and a live news channel. Seven performers took roles: one noble leader, two clerks representing the governing machine, three media reporters who were streamed live to a 24hr news broadcast in the room and a ‘Bean Counter’ who ran the equivalent of the internal economy. Beans could be earned in multiple ways, not all legitimate, and spent on votes. At Battersea Arts Centre, with a crowd of 120, we saw near riots and a sit-in with bribery, fascism and some dirty politics. We then headed to Cardiff for the second scratch at Chapter with 60 people where a renegade reporter joined a party and helped them to win the elections.
After both scratches the post-show bar was humming with conversation, passionate feedback and powerful ideas. Combined with our observations, emails from participants, actors and a feedback-blog from one of the audience members, one thing seemed clear; there’s a really exciting theatre show waiting to emerge.
To further investigate some of the mechanics we also created a game for Playpublik in Berlin, where a crowd of over 60 players build a new nation with sticks, ribbons and balloons. We experimented with independent players, loose from any coalition or back bench. They promptly banded together against the pre-existing parties, ended up with most resources and won the game.
In January and February 2013 we led workshops with students from the MFA Theatre Directing and the MA Creative Producing at Birkbeck University to explore the game mechanics with them and playtest with an invited audience. The next stage of development was played by an audience of 120 at IBT13 at the Arnolfini. William Drew for wired.co.uk and Jacob of Young Arnolfini shared their experiences which you can read here and here.
Use #earlydays on Twitter to be part of the conversation
Concept: Annette Mees
In the first phase of development and research Coney was represented by: Jason Sutton, Mink ette and Annette Mees
The playtest at the Stoke Newington International Airport was made by: Annette Mees, Jason Sutton, Mink ette, Sam Howey Nunn, Michael Cusick, Georgina Bednar, Michelle McMahon and Richard Popple
The scratches at BAC & Chapter were made by:
Direction: Annette Mees
Writing: Jason Sutton
Game design: Mink ette
Producer: Sam Howey Nunn
Production management: Kirsty Henderson
Design: Jeannine Inglis Hall
Video Design: Kiel DeValera
Sound Design: Tom Hackley at HAVE Sound and Kiel DeValera
Composer: Max Perryment
Cast at BAC: Georgina Bednar, Michael Cusick, Edmund Harcourt, Michelle McMahon, Richard Popple, Molly Taylor and Jamie Zubairi
Cast at Chapter: Matthew Bulgo, Laurence Clark, Michael Cusick, Teifi Emerald, Bethan Mary James, Laura Jeffs, Simon Morgan-Thomas, Rachel Helena Walsh
With special thanks to: David Aldhouse, Louis Ruscombe-King, Alex Rowse, Ros Howes, Abdul Shayek & Sarah Jane Leigh
The game for Playpublik was developed by Mink ette and Annette Mees
The workshop development at Birkbeck was created by: Annette Mees and Tom Bowtell
With special thanks to: Rob Swain, Andrew McKinnon, Louise Owen, Fintan Walsh and all the students who took part.
The scratch at IBT13 was made by:
Direction: Annette Mees and Tom Bowtell
Writing: Tom Bowtell
Production management: Ros Howes
Assistant producer: Alex Rowse
Design: Elouise Farley and Jo Scotcher
Video design: Kiel DeValera
Cast: Nigel Barret, Laurence Clark, Michael Cusick, Edmund Harcourt, Bethan Mary James, Fran Moulds, Rachel Helena Walsh
With special thanks to: Hannah Nicklin, Rosie Fairchild, the volunteers and Young Arnolfini
Scratch at Chapter, Cardiff, 17/05/2012
Scratch at BAC, London, 11/05/2012
Game at Playpublik, Berlin, 11/08/2012
Scratch at In Between Time, Arnolfini Bristol, 17/02/2013