I love the diversity of people that find their way to the Common Lot. My anxiety lessens more because I know this bunch of people are prepared for the journey and by the ease with which they show bravery, excitement, and support for one other. Unique shared experience and unlikely new friendships are being forged in the pressure cooker of making theatre together.
Simon Floyd is the director of the Common Lot; an open collective of people dedicated to working together to produce relevant, high quality, original theatre that can be enjoyed by all, for free!
Their mission is to make theatre that matters to people, that’s relevant and home-grown.
The shows are for, with and about the people of Norfolk.
The Common Lot work with the community to produce the shows, including local schools, and that’s how my daughter became involved with her school in helping to compose, write and sing an original song as part of the show. As a family, we went along to see her perform and were completely awestruck and inspired by the scale and wonder of the entire show.
Imagine horrible histories performed as a live theatre show through beloved areas of your city, and all for free. It really was an incredible experience as a spectator.
So how did it begin and what’s the idea behind the ‘Common Lot?’
I spoke to Simon Floyd to find out more.
Simon, you’re the Creative Director of the Common Lot, and you’ve just finished your show ‘Anglia Square – A Love Story’, how did it go?
It was an incredible experience, we had 900 people in the final show in Anglia Square, it was wholly gratifying and also somewhat surprising.
How long have you been working on this particular show?
I’ve always wanted to do a show about the North of Norwich, I started about a year ago, there’s a lot of in-depth research that goes into the scripts and performance, then we work with the community and local schools to build songs and a choir and rehearse together.
What was ‘Anglia Square – a love story’ about?
Anglia Square – a love story tells the history of North Norwich. The project was supported by funding from the National Heritage Lottery Fund and celebrates the heritage and diversity of the community around Anglia Square as plans to redevelop this iconic part of Norwich have been referred to national government.. It begins in the garth behind St Andrews Hall, where we get ‘caught up’ in a riot and then move north to St George’s Green by the Playhouse. We learn about The Strangers who came to Norwich from the Lowlands to work and as we head to Anglia Square, there are pop up entertainers en route telling more stories or singing songs about the history of the area and then we end in Anglia Square, take a shopping trip through the 1930s, ride the flyover of change and enter the present day.
It’s a very current story, there’s quite a political debate raging about Anglia Square right now.
Yes! With our performance we tried to tread a very careful political view. The next redevelopment of Anglia Square is in the hands of the communities secretary now.
(There are plans for a tower block of apartments, cinema, hotel and shops in Anglia square, approved by the city council in December 2018, but with over 700 objections, the decision has now been taken away from the people of Norwich).
How did you get involved in theatre?
I went to Paston College and had ideas about becoming a policeman. Then a teacher came along and blew our minds with theatre performance and I thought, this is what I want, but I had to earn some money too! I have worked in prisons, museums, schools and heritage in my career, but always with theatre as my main hobby.
Can you expand on the vision of the ‘Common Lot’ and how important this is to you?
As a group, we believe that theatre should be free and everywhere. I don’t think it should be restricted to a building at a price that many can’t afford. We follow three main principles: everyone must benefit, all contributions are freely given and equally valued and we have what we need (if we don’t, we can find it!)
Who can get involved in the ‘Common Lot’ performances?
When we’ve got a project ongoing, we just put it out there. Members of the Common Lot do the research and then we advertise to anyone who would like to get involved. We believe everyone is capable of creating and enjoying great theatre. People volunteer their time and everyone brings something different to the performance.
What are the benefits of getting involved in theatre?
There are massive benefits, particularly to those involved in the performance, they get an absolute buzz from it, make new friends, grow in confidence and have a great time.
What was it like working with the schools?
That was brilliant. The children were great and got really involved using visual art and performance. They took photos, created art work and wrote poems about Anglia Square. Then they helped to write and compose an original song which was performed in one of the ‘pop up’ performance spots.
What are your previous shows in Norwich?
Our previous show, All Mouth, No Trousers was an irreverent and joyful celebration of radical Norfolk women told through story and song. The show drew on the traditions of cabaret, music hall, dramatic monologue and verbatim theatre and we performed it in pubs, chapels and coffee houses in Norwich in October 2018. It was the idea of some of the female members of the Common Lot. We’ve got some brilliant, creative women as part this group. We’ve also performed Come Yew In! 2017, 1549 The Story of Kett’s Rebellion in 2016, Midsummer Nights Dream with RSC 2015 and Boudicca The Pantomime in 2014.
Are you planning any more shows?
A lot of work goes into each theatre performance including extensive research. I think I’ve got about one show in me every two years, so I’ll start working on the next one soon.
Photos: My own and others courtesy of the Director’s blog https://angliasquarelovestory.com/2019/07/21/human-sources-ditch-the-re/
The Common Lot are producing a song book and a heritage publication based on the Anglia Square performance.
Around 500 people were involved in the show. If you’d like to find out more about The Common Lot, go to: https://thecommonlot.org