Sheffield Scenes: November 2015

Scenes from the Sheffield intergenerational workshop and performance, 14 November 2015.

Scene 1 - How do we sustain ourselves? 

Three pairs of older women created short scenes in response to this question from one of their group, focusing on sustainability in relationships. A middle-aged couple argue over breakfast about the breadwinner not making time for her partner because she is distracted by work, appointments and phones and keeps putting off their plans together. Two old friends chat about connecting with younger generations: one has lots of lovely stories from her neighbourhood about the positive impact of helping each other out, but the other thinks she can do without the fuss and bother! A grown-up daughter is bidding on eBay for a new iPhone 6 for her 10 year old son, as her mother - the boy's grandma - does the washing up. Grandma tries to warn of the dangers of wastefulness and spoiling children, but mum desperately wants to please her child. She thinks the older generation doesn't understand either technology, or the pressures of modern parenthood.

Scene 2 - Sheffield in 2065: Worst case scenario

The first of two scenes from young people who were asked to imagine what Sheffield might be like 50 years into the future. This group presented a worst case scenario: a desolate society where the impact of climate change, war and untreatable disease has left all remaining humans scavenging in the remains of the city, whilst being pursued by zombies!

Scene 3 - Sheffield in 2065: Best case scenario

The second group imagined their ideal future Sheffield: a technologically advanced society of super-duper trams and ‘chicken’ grown in global laboratories. In this Sheffield, everyone is accompanied by their own personal walking, talking Siri android. Siri knows everything, does everything for you and can navigate anywhere. Older Siri models are prone to malfunction, but the latest model is a substitute best friend, hanging out and watching Netflix. When a fast food overlord reveals his evil plan to take over the world, the Siris rise up to defend their humans.

Scene 4 - Notes for the next generation

A mother, a big sister and a teacher share their messages for the next generation. A mother writes to her son about how she has not finished working for the world she wants for him, for herself and for everyone, but one day it will be over to him as the adult. A sister warns that gadgets, Facebook and Twitter distract you from real relationships and connections, the things you need when you’re older. A teacher lectures young people about their moral responsibility to consider the impact of their consumption on the environment, pleading with them to change their ways.

Scene 5 - Fracking

The younger generation were surprised to learn about fracking from some of the older generation, who are worried about new fracking licenses in South Yorkshire. They worked together on a scene to reflect their ideas about a better altnerative. Three people drill over an unhealthy looking body. The community marches in, singing “Fracking needs to frack off”. One of the community members asks the drillers what they are doing. Their leader says “Getting Gas” and “Good for business” and the other drillers parrot her. The community says to the drillers there has been a change in Government and there is money in renewable energy. The drillers are sceptical until they are shown a contract. Community members gently revive the body on the floor and the scene slowly morphs into a field of wind turbines, closing with voices in unison: “A better world.”

Scene 6 - Playground

The middle generation performed a spoken word piece written by one of their group in response to their discussions about sustainability and community. This poem used single words and short phrases to talk about values and experiences that people of all generations have in common, from basic needs to complex emotions. The group incorporated elements of image theatre and sign language, exploring the themes of isolation and connection. The poem closes with a call for the different generations to take care of the world together: “Differences can be shared in a circle; standing, holding supporting, helping, smiling, singing, laughing, joking, protecting, working, saving, air water, earth, home. So easily overcoming the problems that scare us.”

Scene 7 - What Would You Be?

This was the first of three scenes from the younger group to explore contrasting points of view on immigration and the environment. This group devised a spoken word and image theatre piece about their beliefs in connection and common humanity; in having compassion for people beyond the borders of race and national identity: “We aren’t here to lecture. Ask yourself one question. What would you be if the world never gave you a label? Never gave you a box to check?”

Scene 8 - A Tale of Two Families

This group decided to show how circumstances might be different for the same family, depending on whether they were born in the UK or Uganda. In Uganda, the eldest daughter is ill, but the family have no money for medicine. The youngest daughter wants to move somewhere richer, but her father says “Immigration won’t let us.” The son, Joe, brings money home he claims he earned at the plantation. Their father suspects drug dealing and kicks Joe out of the house. Their mother challenges her husband, saying at least Joe is bringing home money and caring for his sisters. He husband says she knows nothing about how hard is to find work. The scene cuts to the same family sat at a breakfast table in Sheffield. When the eldest daughter says she feels ill, her parents make a doctors’ appointment. The youngest daughter wants to stay off college too because she thinks it’s boring, but is made to go. Joe is on his way out for a job interview. His mother wishes him good luck and his father says they are proud of him. In Uganda, the scene returns to the girls asking why they cannot go to school and their mother explaining they cannot afford it. Their father enters in shock: Joe has been killed in a deal gone wrong. His family criticise him for throwing Joe out of the house and even accuse him of killing Joe out of jealousy. In the UK, the scene ends with both daughters still complaining about having to go to college and Joe coming home with the good news that he has been promoted.

Scene 9 - The New Neighbours

The third group decided to contrast diverse opinions in a scene about new immigrants moving into a shared house next door to a British family. In the immigrant household there is a budding NHS nurse excited for her new life, her useless boyfriend, an elderly man who managed to escape Syria but lost his family, and a Pakistani business man opening a new shop. The scene cuts to the family next door complaining about foreign sounding names and council houses filling up. The British family are taken aback by their new neighbours’ friendly invitation to a barbeque but, momentarily lured by the offer of free food, agree to go. The scene pauses here to ask the audience what they think should happen next.

Scene 10 - Osbomb v. the community

This scene was devised by the Passages group through improvisation, in response to the idea of a ‘bomb’ and a ‘shield’ for sustainability in Sheffield. It starts with a huddle of community shields, such as people on local committees, doing youth work, insulating houses and volunteering at food banks. Osbomb parades into the scene, declaring “We inherited this deficit from the Labour Government”. The community stalks after him, shouting and challenging him. Eventually they overpower him, only for another actor to emerge from the huddle as Osbomb! Each version of Osbomb has a catchphrase, like “It’s only a game” and “I know I’m right.” After three unsuccessful attempts to destroy Osbomb, the group decides to try a new tactic. They sculpt his image to make him more human and humble, more open to listening. They celebrate their hard work and exit. Once they have left the stage, Osbomb slowly reverts back to his original form and leers at the audience: “I know I’m right.”

Scene 11 - Together

A group of young, middle age and older people take the stage in separate huddles. The scene opens with the young people conversing with each other over text message. They avoid eye contact, so we imagine them in different rooms. First two voices are speaking, then four, then six, then all of them so that what they are saying becomes indecipherable. One complains that her battery is dead and moves. The others freeze. The middle age group starts moving, all hustle and bustle. Each character repeats a line (“The kids! The mess!”, “I’m going to be late!”, “The bus is late again”) that builds to a crescendo and sudden silence. The older group have their arms folded and eye the others suspiciously (“I plan to enjoy my retirement”, “I don’t like the look of them”, “I’ll be dead soon anyway”) until the young person without a phone comes over to say hello to one of them. Slowly, other people start to introduce themselves to one another. The group put their hands together in a circle, each adding an ingredient (“Optimism”, “Experience”, “Creativity”, “Music”...). They are joined by the entire cast to take a final bow and close the night's performance.

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