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Everything Must Go in Eastern Angles new community play

PUBLISHED: 13:32 21 September 2017 | UPDATED: 13:32 21 September 2017

Joe Leat and Rosalind Burt play Tom and Dot (as well as  other characters) in Everything Must Go, a play about community and shopping. Photo: Mike Kwasniak

Joe Leat and Rosalind Burt play Tom and Dot (as well as other characters) in Everything Must Go, a play about community and shopping. Photo: Mike Kwasniak

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Touring company Eastern Angles are letting their audiences do the talking with a new play, Everything Must Go, which has been devised from interviews with residents of Ipswich care homes. Arts editor Andrew Clarke finds out about the value of shopping

Joe Leat and Rosalind Burt play Tom and Dot (as well as  other characters) in Everything Must Go, a play about community and shopping. Photo: Mike Kwasniak Joe Leat and Rosalind Burt play Tom and Dot (as well as other characters) in Everything Must Go, a play about community and shopping. Photo: Mike Kwasniak

Community, communication and the lost joys of shopping are the themes behind a new play, Everything Must Go, being staged by Eastern Angles which launches this weekend.

Written by John Taverner from interviews with Ipswich care home residents, devised by the cast and directed by Eastern Angles founder Ivan Cutting, Everything Must Go looks at the way that shops and shopping act as a social glue which binds communities together.

Joe Leat and Rosalind Burt play Tom and his granny, Dot. It’s a nostalgic look at how shopping has changed over the years…from cosy village store to superstores and online purchasing. It’s also a poignant family story about the relationship between a twenty-something young man and his frail gran.

Joe Leat and Rosalind Burt play Tom and Dot (as well as  other characters) in Everything Must Go, a play about community and shopping. Photo: Mike Kwasniak Joe Leat and Rosalind Burt play Tom and Dot (as well as other characters) in Everything Must Go, a play about community and shopping. Photo: Mike Kwasniak

“As with all plays it’s all about people and their relationships with one another,” says Joe.

“It’s about how people see the world around them, what’s important to them,” Rosalind adds, “and how they interact with one another.

“One of the strongest things which came out of John’s (Taverner) interviews with the care home residents was how social shopping was back in the day. You would go into small shops and have a conversation with someone behind the counter. Customer service was very important. The shop owners or the shop staff would do everything they could to keep you happy because they knew there was another shop round the corner who would happily take your custom.”

Joe Leat and Rosalind Burt play Tom and Dot (as well as  other characters) in Everything Must Go, a play about community and shopping. Photo: Mike Kwasniak Joe Leat and Rosalind Burt play Tom and Dot (as well as other characters) in Everything Must Go, a play about community and shopping. Photo: Mike Kwasniak

Joe adds that going to the shops was an occasion for people to meet their friends and people they knew in the street. “It’s all part of what binds a community to together. It’s the gossip and the swapping of information. It’s making friends and looking out for one another.”

He says that one of the biggest regrets coming across from the various interviews is how impersonal shopping has become – firstly with the advent of supermarkets, then out of town superstores and now online shopping. “It all conspires to remove the social element, the human interaction from our lives. Now you can shop without meeting or speaking to anyone.”

What came across strongly from all the interviews carried out by John Taverner was how important the social interaction was. Rosalind says this was brought home with a conversation with her boyfriend’s grand-parents. “People all knew one another. Shopping was a chance to meet people, to talk to friends. You knew the people in the shops, it was a chance to find out what was happening in your world. Shopping helped shape your community, just as the pub and the post office did.”

Joe Leat and Rosalind Burt play Tom and Dot (as well as  other characters) in Everything Must Go, a play about community and shopping. Photo: Mike Kwasniak Joe Leat and Rosalind Burt play Tom and Dot (as well as other characters) in Everything Must Go, a play about community and shopping. Photo: Mike Kwasniak

Joe says that as actors it has been great fun helping to shape the play in the rehearsal room. “We started off with a basic script from John and a whole lot of research material which has come from the interviews and, with Ivan directing, we have been able to create a beautiful story of one young man’s relationship with his grandmother, how he helps her come to terms with the modern world and allows her the opportunity to talk about the old days and he can see the world through her eyes and how everything has changed.”

He adds that although their central characters are Tom and Dot, both of them play an array of different, quick-change roles throughout the piece. “As actors it’s great fun, switching personalities just like that,” laughs Rosalind.

“I even get to play a woman – again,” laughs Joe. “Any excuse to whip out the old headscarf.”

Rosalind continues: “It’s about telling stories. For Dot, supermarkets aren’t a great advance because they have taken something important from her life. They have removed some of the joy from life. In the beginning, Tom, being a young man, doesn’t understand, but the more time he spends in Dot’s company, he can catch a glimpse of his gran’s past and the world she misses.”

Everything Must Go is at the Sir John Mills Theatre, Ipswich, until Saturday then goes to Southwold Arts Centre on September 30 and Brightlingsea Community Centre on October 7. It between dates it will be performed at care homes and schools across Ipswich and Suffolk.

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