Accidental Collective are an interdisciplinary performance company based in Kent. We spoke to them about their new show, Here’s Hoping; an intimate collage of hopeful stories for these dark times, from Leningrad in 1942 to current day Aleppo, from Obama to Enya.
What inspired you to create Here’s Hoping?
We had the impulse to make a show about hope almost three years ago. The world seemed like a pretty hopeless place and we were feeling pretty low. Since then, of course, the reasons for despair have kept piling up – nationally, globally… So, making a show about hope has felt more urgent than ever. A really important moment in the process of making it was when we read Rebecca Solnit’s book “Hope in the Dark”. It was a huge inspiration because it articulated and clarified things for us.
How long has Here’s Hoping been in the making?
Here’s Hoping has been on a long journey from its initial conception to the finished production. In March 2014, thanks to Quarterhouse (Folkestone), we began to explore the idea of hope by spending three consecutive weekends playing around in a disused shop, fighting off the cold, and talking to people on the street. In September that year we sent each other a series of 14 postcards where we started to dream up ideas for the show. The first of these were published by Exeunt In 2015, thanks to funding from Arts Council England and support by Escalator Performing Arts and Ovalhouse, we had a research and development phase. This culminated in work-in-progress we performed as part of Ovalhouse’s FiRST BiTES season. On the back of that Ovalhouse and Theatre Royal Margate co-commissioned us to finish the show, which we did this summer. Thanks to funding by Arts Council England and Kent County Council we spent this summer making the show in spaces around Kent (Quarterhouse in Folkestone, the University of Kent in Canterbury, and the Theatre Royal in Margate).
The show has been supported by Ovalhouse. How much involvement have they had in the development of the show?
Ovalhouse has been a key partner in the making of the show. We’re really grateful to have received seed funding and space to make/rehearse the show throughout the process. It’s a lovely venue to work in. Everyone is very generous with their advice and support. Being able to show our work-in-progress and get feedback was also hugely important! Without Ovalhouse Here’s Hoping would probably not exist as it does today.
Your show is about hope, but isn’t it hard to pin down what hope means? Is there a universal quality behind the word or is it different for everyone?
Yes, you’re absolutely right! Hope is a really big and complex idea – it’s so slippery. At first we got tangled up in trying to define it, in general terms, but then we realised we had to move beyond that. Everyone has their own relationship to hope, so the show is not about trying to reach consensus. Instead it asks questions we can all relate to, making spaces for each person to respond in their own way. We also realised that we can only really speak from our own personal position; so that’s the balance we are trying to strike, between offering something of ourselves, whilst also leaving space for the audience and their hopes.
Where do all the stories of hope come from? Are they voices the audience will know? Are they speeches or letters or diary extracts?
The stories in the show are stories that are out there, in the world. Some of them we came across in documentaries, others are stories we have read about, or that people have told us. There’s also a few moments that come from ourselves.
You’re known for combining elements of live art and theatre- what form does Here’s Hoping take? Does it invite the audience to be involved in the performance?
Here’s Hoping is somewhere between old-fashioned storytelling, a community meeting and a personal conversation. We want people to have a sense of coming together and also allow space for their own private responses. It’s about engaging people’s imaginations and at the same time, being present with us in the here and now. So yes, it’s the kind of show where people are gently invited to contribute.
Finally, can you sum-up what hope means to you in a few words?
Well, the two of us have slightly different ideas about this. But for us, hope is a way forward. But for a better sense, you’ll have to come see the show and see what you think!
Here’s Hoping plays at Oval House as part of their Autumn Season until Saturday 29th October. The rest of the season includes Work Play by Nick Field, Still by The Future Is Unwritten, Post by Xavier de Sousa and a Christmas treat in the form of Why the Whales Came by children’s author, Michael Morpurgo.