‘Let’s make it important’: Salford theatre group to stage real anti-austerity march in Love on the Dole

A Salford theatre group will blur the line between fantasy and reality by staging a real anti-austerity march during an upcoming play.

The Salford Community Theatre Project is inviting real campaigners and trade unionists to march down Chapel Street in an adaptation of Walter Greenwood’s Love on the Dole.

The cast, made up entirely of volunteers, will begin by performing in Islington Mill before taking to the streets for the final scenes.

Set in the poverty-stricken slums of 1930s Salford, Greenwood wrote of how his community was being hammered by unemployment.

The theatre group hope that Greenwood’s tale of economic hardship will help highlight problems that Salford faces today.

“People are getting laid off and sanctioned within the story and the cast will march out of Islington Mill,” co-director Steph Green told MM.

“We’ll have a meeting point for campaigners, trade unions and anyone who wants to be part of the demonstration.

“Not only will it be a scene in the play, with the characters marching, we’re hoping to be joined by campaigners to have a demo five nights in a row.”

The cast, and demonstrators, will march to Bexley Square where 10,000 people gathered in 1931 to protest against unemployment.

Another scene will then be performed before marching to St Philips Church where the play will end.

“Because this march actually happened, and then it was fictionalised in the novel, we’re sort of playing both sides of it, Steph said.

“The cast and the audience will be doing the march as a scene, but when we’re joined by these campaigners it will form a demo and we’ll have a mass of people walking to the old Town Hall on Bexley Square just like they did in the 1930s.

“It will be quite special – we’re excited about it.”

Steph, who has previously worked on other community projects such as the Chester Mystery plays, said that it was important to her and fellow co-director, Sarah Weston, not to focus on the period setting of Greenwood’s novel.

“We’re trying not to pin it down to the past, and not dress the cast in period dress which could make it really archaic and just another play about 1930s Salford,” she said.

“Doing it somewhere like Islington Mill, and being out on modern Chapel Street, will blur that line.

“Let’s not just put on another version of Love on the Dole, let’s make it a community play and let’s make it important.”

The fact that many of the cast have never acted before has been an advantage according to the theatre worker.

Recruited from the local community, Steph said that the cast see similarities between themes in the play and life in Salford today.

“We’ve found it works better to work with volunteers rather than professional actors because of their instincts, they don’t over think it and they just go for it,” she said.

“People are more down to earth and in it for a common cause.

“They say some of their lines and then say ‘this is happening now’.

“One guy said that this play is making him want to get into politics because of what he’s talking about.

“That’s exactly what we’d rather do than hire a load of professional actors and just put on a good play without it being important.”

The theatre group hopes that their community-based approach will help to bring in a new audience.

“It’s not ‘sit down and come and watch a play’ it will be like a promenade performance around Islington Mill,” she said.

“The most important thing is to try and get people who don’t come to theatre, who might be put off if it was behind done in a bigger theatre or being done by professional actors.

“There are people in our cast who have never even been to the theatre so that’s who we want to talk to as well as the people who might enjoy it for the theatrical aspects.

“We don’t want there to be any barriers for anyone.”

Love on the Dole will run from July 5 – 9 at Islington Mill.

The Salford Community Theatre Project are hosting a fundraiser for the production at The Old Pint Pot on April 15 from 8pm.

The event will feature live music and spoken word with tickets priced at £5.

For more information click here.

Image courtesy of Bernard Brough, via YouTube, with thanks.

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