Set in and around a single old abandoned hospital, York moves through time to uncover the buried histories we have built over. Traversing four different eras, this daring new work written by Ian Michael and Chris Isaacs sheds light on how our stories are told – and who tells them.
This month was set to be the debut of this new work but COVID had other plans. Instead, the creative and artistic team engaged in a creative development consisting of in person rehearsals, visits to York for consultation with elders and community, and a public play reading at the York Town Hall (see photos below).
Here writer Ian Michael describes what this process meant for him:
Tonight would have been Opening Night of York, a new work that Chris Issacs and I started writing three years ago. This night has played over and over in my head - the doors are about to open, how are the actors feeling? What it would have looked like on stage, and sounded like? What will the audience think? How will I feel when the lights go down at the end?
Instead, we find ourselves in a time where sitting in the dark together in a space isn’t as simple as it used to be. But, through the pandemic cloud, a glimmer of silver lining shone - in the form of a month long creative development on York with the cast and creatives.
In this country, new work rarely gets the development it deserves. So, having the opportunity to be in a room together, to visit the place and people where the stories of York come from was essential to the process of making the work and telling the stories with complete truth and understanding.
The conversations in the development room at times were confronting and challenging but were shared with honesty, passion and are the conversations that this country doesn’t have enough of, where we really have to look at ourselves to acknowledge the truth of history and what our future could be.
Making weekly trips to York together was the most important part of the process for myself and the part that ensured that we were telling these stories with permission and open hearts. Ballardong Elders and community let us in, to sit with them, to listen, share laughs, tears, hugs and countless cups of tea.
During one of the visits, we were invited to hold a public reading in the local town hall. This would be the first time the words Chris and I spent years dreaming about would be out in the world and heard by the people who these stories and history belong to. At the end, they stood, clapped and there were tears, laughs and stories shared over more cups of tea.
I am beyond grateful to the cast, creatives and Black Swan for giving us that time and I can’t wait for that night when we get to see and hear these stories together.
Image credit: Dana Weeks