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There Is No Them. Only Us.

There is no them. Only us.*

So, mid-rant to my friend about Grenfell, my friend told me his dad works for the contractor that installed the cladding, in a senior management capacity.

My friend’s eyes as he told me belayed what this meant for his dad, what it’s like to be on the receiving end of anger and inferred blame for something so terrible, and what that meant to my friend.

It pulled me up short.

In my anger I had lost sight of my belief in the way forward being in more connection, more dialogue, MORE compassion, love and understanding for ALL and with ALL of our brothers and sisters in this wonderful, diverse and imperfectly perfectly beautiful species muddling its way in the cosmos, moment-by-moment, to which we all belong.

Justice and change must happen. And while it is, my proposition is that we are kind to each other in the meantime. There are no winners.

Addendum: after writing this, before sending, myself and members of our FOODBANK: As It Is family found ourselves after our production meeting in Hyde Park singing Jerusalem(!) with the uber-toff toffs outside possibly the last real little boozer in Knightsbridge. And sing we did, at the top of our voices, hearts full. Together. After an afternoon of, amongst many other things, expressing our views on the horrific impact of financial inequality and those that would continue to exploit and benefit from that inequality. Bollocks to the old-Etonian overtones and connotations to the choice of song that spontaneously broke out. What was much more important, in my experience of the moment, was that human-to-human, life-to-life contact, connection and expression was made, crossing the divides of class and prejudice. A perhaps unconscious yet profound new understanding reached, the consequential ripples of which, one can only imagine.

*There Is No Them. Only Us. Is the strapline of Foodbank: As It Is. – A play that I am involved in as a member of its collective theatre company.

Thursday 6/6

Sending this to everyone in my address book (circa 3000 people- I’ve got to ‘B’ and fingers hurting already):

I am sending this message to everyone I know. We may be close friends, colleagues or family or just have an acquaintance, perhaps currently, perhaps from the distant past. We may not even remember how we know each other.

What ever our relationship, I implore you to look deeply into yourself when considering your choice when you vote on Thursday and to encourage others you know to do the same.

Please find the time to watch this short video of reasonable testimony from reasonable people and, if you feel it is of merit, share it with the people you know too.

Best wishes,
Lawrence 

lawrenceoconnor.com

Debut writer pens play telling the real story about food banks

Proud to be a part of this production which is creating an impact. The extent of which none of us could have forseen.

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A new play written by food bank worker Tara Osman has opened at the Calder Book Shop Theatre in London.

Food Bank As It Is recounts real life stories about the growing number of people in the UK who are reliant on food banks and explores how benefit sanctions and delays can have a catastrophic effect on individual lives.

“I was moved to start writing this play several months in to my job as a food bank support worker and subsequently manager of a London food bank,” explains Osman.

“I was becoming increasingly aware that many people, including countless children, are going hungry because the welfare benefits system is not fit for purpose.”

“Sanctions, delays in making payments, decisions to stop payments without notification and delays in appeals being heard all mean that people are left for weeks and often months with no income. This can mean no money for…

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*****THANK YOU*****

What a year it has been.

I have dedicated the next couple of weeks to reflection, assimilation and preparation.

The number of visitors to this site have more than doubled every year since I started this site in 2010.

I´d like to say THANK YOU to every single one of you who has taken the time to look-in here from time-to-time and to wish you a very lovely xmas and a wonderful year ahead.

 

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´Lawrence lives here´

Among the reasons that I have chosen The Tempest as the provocation for the work with young people is that it captures and articulates its universal human truths in a form that crosses cultural boundaries and barriers.

The play sheds light on and raises questions of relationship eg between parent-child, lover-loved, carer-caree and oppressor-oppressed roles, loss, personal transformation, fear, resolution, what it is to be free/not free and what it is for a person to find themselves – not of their choosing – in a strange land and what this means to identity and the difference between ́living ́ and ́surviving ́. The message of the piece for me so far is:
It is only by passing through our darkest hour that we truly change.

In 1976, as a child, after years of homelessness we were finally moved to Worlds End, Chelsea from the Trenmar Lodge Hostel for homeless families, Willesden. It was winter. Outside our just-built new home, I announced my response to our arrival into the snow for the world to see.
After the snow thawed, the words still remained, etched into the newly laid turf in letters ten feet high: ´LAWRENCE LIVES HERE´.

In time, the Chelsea Theatre on the Worlds End estate became an oasis of support and of possibilities. Its then artistic director, Francis Alexander, placed trust in me, and gave me the support and resources to initiate and deliver creative projects that would have been beyond my reach otherwise.

Since then,  I have maintained my relationship with the Worlds End Estate and Chelsea Theatre. I share the vision of the Chelsea Theatre of realising the potential of engagement with artistic expression to create positive influence in the community and to change lives.

To that end, we are collaborating with Michelle Abbey and Kathryn Stephens-Berry at the Chelsea Theatre to deliver the The Tempest : Strange Lands project for young people to work alongside Company C to develop and perform their own pieces in conjunction with our rehearsals and preview performances of The Tempest.

Click here to find out more about the The Tempest : Strange Lands youth project.

Click here to book tickets for the Etcetera Theatre 

Link for tickets at the Chelsea Theatre TBA

The Seeing Place

3000 year old theatre - El Jem Tunisia
3000 year old theatre – El Jem Tunisia

I took this photograph while exploring Tunisia last year.

These remains are left open and unprotected. No fence, guard or gates to stop anyone with a mind to from helping themselves to a lump of two of it.

I was touched by the echoes of this place, the palpable sense of audiences in the still clearly defined terraces, entrances and exits through the crumbling arches to the stage.

While there, it struck me that one of the first thing our species does when settling is to define a performance space, a theatre. A ‘seeing place’ (from the Greek theatron)- the place we go to see the truth. It’s right up there on our list of priorities along with sanitation and shelter. Another example of this is The Good Chance Theatre in The Jungle refugee camp in Calais. At the time of writing, the camp is a symptom of appalling international abdication of responsibly and absence of compassion during a time of the largest worldwide migration of populations since the second world war.

I saw an interview with one afghan refugee there. When asked what he thought of the theatre in the camp when there were so few resources he replied: ‘I like coming here. It means I can live, not just survive’.

We all need this.

‘A seeing place where we go to see the truth’ is becoming a rarer thing, as are the practitioners who are equipped with the competence to be able to turn up and tell the truth at the service of whatever story is being told.

And as our offering of a diet of increasingly processed and mediated performance, in which nothing actually happens to anyone, least of all the audience becomes accepted as the norm and what passes for ‘good theatre’, I am redoubling my efforts to share work in which we show up and tell the truth.

After we returned there was a massacre of tourists and locals in an appalling terror attack in the same precinct in which we had been staying a week before. And, at the time of writing a year later in the Summer of 2016, the attacks have continued around world, the fear grows, and we continue to endorse sending planes to drop their bombs, many of the victims of which are the innocent, in our literally nonsensical ´war against terror´ in which their can be no victors..

‘Craft’

It is wonderful that we(performance practitioners) are rediscovering ‘craft’ these days. However, I see increasing cases of the well-intentioned pursuit of the purity of ‘the craft’ (as sadly directed by some teachers and coaches) completely block otherwise creative people from their full creative expression, including, ironically, of their ‘truth’ as their identity as ‘purist craftsperson’ or somesuch notion becomes just another idea, another act to hide behind, albeit an often almost-convincingly authentic one.

The upshot is that, unless remedied in the rehearsal room or in the company classes, working with such practitioners can be, at best unpleasant and, at worst, impossible.

As writer Charlie Kaufman (including of two of my all time favourite films: Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and Being John Makcovitch amongst many others) so eloquently puts it:

‘the danger of craft is that it needs to be in second position to what it is that you’re doing.’