Harrow Road play showcases area’s diversity

Community workshops formed the basis for new West End show

PADDINGTON’S unique essence and diversity is being transported onto the stage this week through a community play being performed in the West End.

Tales of the Harrow Road is based on the individual stories of women from the area who took part in a number of workshops – the results of which formed the foundations of the play.

Running for four nights at the Soho Theatre before moving to the Cockpit Theatre in Church Street next week, the play stars 14 community actors, many of whom took part in the original workshops.

Director Suzanne Gorman, who works at Soho Theatre, said: “We do community projects every year and this time we wanted to come to a different part of the borough.

“We ran a series of workshops which involved people telling their own stories and talking about tales from their childhood.

“People also created characters and wrote down some themes so it was a mixture of them talking about themselves and then using their own life stories to create something fictional. It’s a very diverse play which shows Paddington and Westminster as the diverse places that they are.

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“I was interested in the type of women who you may see in the street but don’t know much about their background.”

The play explores the importance of knowing your past through two main storylines of an Iraqi woman searching for a new home, and a young Bangladeshi girl on the quest to find love.

“These are immigrant stories and the show is about misplacement,” said Ms Gorman.

“It explores community and people’s concerns and friendships made in a busy city.

“The local people have been brilliant to work with. They have been generous with their time and efforts and their energy has been amazing. People have been very open and willing to share to get their stories up on stage where they wouldn’t normally be heard.”

The workshops saw women from the Paddington area discuss their personal experiences with Ms Gorman and writer In-Sook Chappell, who merged them together to form the play.

She said: “This was my first experience of community theatre and it’s been great. It’s a completely different approach from a normal show because it has a lovely sense of everyone being involved. What was really special was working with such a diverse group of women.

“I wove all the stories together but pretty much what is on stage is what came out of the workshops.

“I think all the characters in the play are very mixed which is like the area. It’s multi-cultural and I think it represents the area quite well.”

Sharon Marshall, general manager of Paddington Arts Centre, in Woodfield Road, took part in some of the original workshops as well as appearing in the play.

She said: “I have never done any acting before and never written for anybody else so I thought it would be something new.

“It’s the first opportunity I have had to learn how to take an idea and develop it and understand the process of getting it from page to stage.

“Everybody has their own version of the Harrow Road. It is a very diverse neighbourhood so there are lots of different takes on it but for the story being told it is very accurate.”

The play runs until Saturday at the Soho Theatre and from November 10 to 13 at the Cockpit Theatre.