New Venue and Readers Announced for Down and Out: LIVE

Tuesday 29 May 2018

Down and Out: LIVE will now take place at Stone Nest, Shaftesbury Avenue: 6th June 2pm-6pm. 

Admission Free: register online today
(followed by panel debate at 6.30pm)

George Orwell’s Down and Out in Paris and London is being read and staged in an immersive, live theatrical event combining performance, music, film, poetry and story-telling for the first time at Stone Nest in the heart of London’s West End.

Orwell’s ground-breaking exploration of poverty and homelessness published in 1933 has a searing relevance to the issues of today. The Orwell Foundation has worked for a year to make this event possible: bringing together Libby Brodie Productions, UCL and the Joseph Rowntree Foundation in collaboration with The Connection, YMCA, Centrepoint, Crisis and Streetwise Opera, with support from White Light and The Young Theatre.

When at a very late stage its planned venue became untenable, Stone Nest in the former Welsh Chapel on Cambridge Circus, a performing arts venue a short walk from UCL’s Bloomsbury campus, stepped in at the last moment – generously donating the space in-kind, for which we are all enormously grateful. 

At Stone Nest, in the spirit of Orwell, we hope to help give expression to voices that are rarely heard, a platform for people who are not seen, and to raise uncomfortable truths about our society. Many people have contributed their time and experience to make this project a success.

The performance of the text has been re-imagined by Director Hannah Price and Producer Libby Brodie – who staged – with the Orwell Foundation – the successful first ever public reading of the whole of 1984 last year at Senate House. This NEW WORK will be live-streamed into libraries and venues across Britain and can be watched from all over the world. The performance will be followed by an expert panel discussing the policy and political solutions that are needed to help solve the problems raised.

Down and Out: LIVE tries to use at least some of Orwell’s own research methods – learning about experiences at first hand. The ideas, the words, the immersive dramatization, the sets and sounds have been shaped by collaboration with people with experience of the variety of modern homelessness and poverty.  The project has worked closely with service users from The Connection at St Martin-in-the-Fields and young people from the YMCA in Stoke (where the Orwell Foundation has run writing workshops) to collect individual stories of the journey to rough-sleeping and homelessness. Some who have bravely shared their stories will be readers on the day.

Jean Seaton, the Director of the Orwell Foundation said:

‘From the start we have wanted to use the authority and integrity of Orwell’s work to give a platform for people who have experienced homelessness to speak out and, for the first time, share their stories with the public. They are the stars of this performance.’

Among other distinguished readers are Jon Snow, Bonnie Greer, Peter Hitchens, Simon Callow, Jack Monroe and Ben Aldridge. Four artists have been commissioned to create responses to contemporary homelessness and want. Poets Adam Kammerling, Sabrina Mahfouz and Joelle Taylor’s work will be part of the event. Edwin Mingard will make a film in reaction to the programme and the later event in Paris which will be launched later in the year. Hannah Price has worked to bring these various pieces and fuses them with some newly created scores from the contributing actors and musicians to create an original, evocative and ground-breaking new piece of theatre.

The event, part of UCL’s week-long Festival of Culture, is being presented by the Orwell Foundation: an independent charity that is based at UCL alongside the Orwell Archive, which has been held at UCL since 1960.

The George Orwell Archive is the most comprehensive body in the world of research material relating to Orwell. Manuscripts, notebooks and personalia were presented on permanent loan by his widow on behalf of the George Orwell Archive Trust, supplemented by donations and purchases. The aim of the Trustees of the Archive was to make a research centre for Orwell studies, by bringing together all of Orwell’s printed works, including newspaper items; private correspondence; other private papers in the possession of his widow; printed matter other than his own which will help later generations to understand the controversies in which he was involved; and tape recordings or written statements by all with first-hand experience of him of any consequence.

Download, print and share our promotional poster, by Edwin Mingard