'Skin in the Game' - a modern urban thriller will be touring community centres in August
Nechells, Summer, 2019.
The family flat isn’t selling.
Dad’s been moved into a care home that needs paying for.
Three estranged siblings meet to fix the problem.
But the reality of the situation is more terrifying than any of them can imagine…
BY JAMES HADDRELL
As a charity, one of our key aims at Greenwich Theatre is to make the shows that we present as accessible as possible to our local audience. That accessibility comes in a number of guises but by far the most significant barriers to attendance for audiences are location and cost.
For that reason one of the most important projects for us this summer is going to be a tour of community centres with the new play Skin in the Game. With a West End director and a full professional cast, the show will be performed for free to audiences in 10 community centres across Birmingham, home of writer Paul Westwood, and Greenwich, thanks to funding support from Arts Council England and the Royal Borough of Greenwich.
The play, a modern urban thriller, is about three adult siblings struggling to cope with debt, the perils of gambling and the pressures of caring for an elderly parent. It was always intended to play outside of conventional theatres – when Paul first began working on it in 2013, it was destined to be performed in a living room in Edinburgh as a site specific show.
However, it has now found its home in the community.
“Going around the community centres myself, I’ve had the most overwhelming response and welcome from these venues,” Mr Westwood told me. “They do such incredible work, normally on a shoestring budget, and sometimes with no budget or funding at all. I don’t think any of the places we’re going to have had a professional play come to them.
“The community I’ve written about is a very tight knit one. They live through a lot of struggles but they do it together and they’ve got each other’s backs. They look out for each other.
“I’m hoping audiences at these community centres recognise themselves or others in these characters, and as I think the gambling issue is one that affects more people than we might think it does, I feel a lot of people will relate to the struggles presented in the play.”
Gambling addiction is one of the most crippling phenomena affecting our society at the moment. The 2018 Gambling Commission study suggests that 450,000 children aged 11 to 16 bet regularly, more than those who have taken drugs, smoked or drunk alcohol.
This year has finally seen the reduction of maximum stakes on fixed odds betting terminals from £100 to £2, but the reduction took so long that Tracey Crouch MP resigned as Minister for Sports in protest at the delays, and new games are already being designed to circumvent the rules.
As a result we have partnered with national charity Young Gamers and Gamblers Education Trust (YGAM) to support a series of post-show question and answer events after each community performance.
Paul, along with the full cast, will be on hand to answer questions about the show. However, this is not an educational project. We are proud to be bringing a high-quality, exciting piece of modern theatre to audiences who might not usually be able to afford to attend a conventional theatre or to make the trip outside of their own community.
“I want audiences to see this family, be drawn in, and then spend most of the play on the edge of their seat, and at the end to go out working it all out” said Paul. “Theatre should always thrill.”
Supported using public funding by the National Lottery through Arts Council England.
Presented by: JIH in association with Greenwich Theatre
Director: Clemmie Reynolds
by: Paul Westwood
Performance times: 7:30pm
Ticket prices: £13.50, concessions £11
(Ticket prices includes a £1 booking fee)
Skin in the Game is on at the Clockhouse Community Centre on August 5, The Forum on August 6, Mycenae House on August 7, Woolwich Common Community Centre on August 8 and at Shrewsbury House Community Centre on August 9. Tickets are free. Donations will be accepted at the end of the performance.
James Haddrell is the artistic and executive director of Greenwich Theatre