Premiere of play that challenges social injustice

Jennifer Nevin and Mike Auger of Displace Yourself Theatre in Eden. Picture: Lizzie Coombes
Jennifer Nevin and Mike Auger of Displace Yourself Theatre in Eden. Picture: Lizzie Coombes
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Theatre, stories, can come from many different places. Inspiration is rarely the sort of thing that arrives if you sit at a desk and will its appearance.

Often theatre makers tell me that a single image or moment has provided the inspiration for the stories they tell.

The latest show from Leeds- based company Displace Yourself began seven years ago when Jennifer Nevin struck up a conversation with a Big Issue seller outside West Yorkshire Playhouse.

At the time Nevin was at drama school and was building a character for a project. She based it on the woman who sits outside the Playhouse and sells the magazine. In order to be truthful to the character, Nevin had to do a lot more than simply watch the woman, she had to talk to her. So she asked if she could buy her a coffee and have a conversation. That conversation over a coffee was the first step on a journey to Eden, the show which has its premiere tonight at the Carriageworks in Leeds.

Tackling the issue of social inclusion, the show was further inspired by a trip Nevin took with the other member of Displace Yourself, Mike Auger, to Thailand where the pair ran creative workshops for vulnerable communities on the Thailand and Myanmar border.

Nevin and Auger met while training with Uri Roodner at East 15 Acting School and set up their company in 2012.

Auger a choreographer, musician and physical theatre practitioner, has worked with companies including Told by an Idiot and Nevin has worked with the acclaimed Ken Campbell School of Night. Eden, they say, is born out of a strong ethos to produce intimate work that uses narrative, music and movement aimed at challenging social injustices.

Nevin says: “Displace Yourself Theatre reaches out to margins of society and offers a voice to communities that are often underrepresented, striving to raise awareness, ask questions and present alternative perceptions.”

After a seven year gestation, Eden began to take shape at West Yorkshire Playhouse earlier this year as part of the theatre’s Summer Sublets Scheme. A perfect example of a new way of working in collaboration post the latest round of Arts Council cuts, Eden has been developed with support from a huge number of different organisations.

Since Auger and Nevin began developing the show it has been further developed over a series of residencies at ARC, Stockton Arts Centre, Slung Low’s HUB and Theatre in the Mill in Bradford.

As part of these residencies Displace Yourself Theatre invited local groups working with vulnerable adults to participate in workshops. The workshops were a significant part of the artistic process.

The creative workshops used theatre and movement exercises to explore the themes of the show along with discussions of the issues surrounding homelessness.

Participants from Yorkshire’s homeless theatre Company Urban Sprawl took part in the workshop at Slung Low’s HUB. As part of the residencies the workshop participants were also invited back to see a sharing of the work at the end of the week and to give feedback.

Now, after a year in development this thrilling piece of physical theatre has its first public performances at The Carriageworks Theatre, Leeds, tonight and tomorrow, at 7.45pm.

• Tickets are at www.carriageworkstheatre.org.uk