Last week the talented drama students of the Kingston University Project put on an unforgettable and stirring production at London’s New Diorama Theatre. What’s Between Us, a show described in its programme as a ‘map of intriguing moments’, was inspired entirely by a set of cassette tapes, a refreshingly interesting and creative take for the story’s origins.
The tapes, recorded over a five-year period, were tales of past and present Roehampton residents and provided by the leading participatory arts charity, Spare Tyre. The area in West London that, like many other boroughs, is experiencing regeneration within its estate. As Spare Tyre’s CEO and Artistic Director Arti Prashar told Persist, “regeneration, community, immigration and relationships” were social issues that largely affected the community. After they were invited onto the estate by the local authority, the charity decided to be creative, exchanging cakes and plants with older residents for their stories.
The cast spent ten months working with the material, creating a fantastic repertoire of characters and their memories to develop the plot. The production opened with long-term resident Stewart, an elderly gentleman who endearingly introduced the audience to the locals in his community, as well as his love of gardening and nature. A shining star, none of the characters fell victim to two-dimensional portrayals, as each explored their memories, hardships and contribution to the community. From working mothers to students, immigrants and the elderly, a tapestry of lives was effortlessly woven in front of the audience. The characters wouldn’t have been who they were if the cast didn’t put a bit of themselves into them, and the labour of love shows.
Speaking during the Q&A afterwards, the cast noted that they didn’t want to make the production too political, instead focusing on the positive elements of both community and the human factor. The title itself highlights the show’s message – capturing the small moments that strangers share daily. Whether that’s passing each other on the street, doing the school run or going to the shops, one thing’s for sure: The Kingston University Project perfectly captured a lifetime of community sense and purpose.