An insight into the real world on life’s stage

The RSC’s unique interactive project, involving local residents of all ages, takes the audience on a special journey from Hampstead Theatre to Adelaide Road

WHEN the RSC committed to a five-year annual residency at The Roundhouse and Hampstead Theatre, the world-renowned theatre company wanted to mark the deal with a special project.

Since the two venues are physically connected by Adelaide Road, they launched an interactive project involving local residents from three to 83.

The RSC’s poet in residence Aoife Mannix has run a series of writing workshops and storytelling sessions at Camden libraries and community centres – loosely inspired by themes in As You Like It: love, betrayal and exile.

Their joint work will culminate in a trio of live performances performed by RSC actors on Saturday.

Audience members will start at Hampstead Theatre and be led by Touchstone “a 21st Century fool and slightly unreliable guide” along a seven-stage journey inspired by the play’s famous seven ages of man speech.

They will be handed a series of letters unfolding a modern-day tale of a young grieving girl, who arrives in London to track down the father she has never met.

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Along the way, she finds love – as does Touchstone – and the one-hour promenade performance ends in uplifting style with an invite to a double wedding in the Adelaide Road nature reserve.

“It’s very loosely inspired by As You Like It,” says Mannix, who has written the entire live story. “In the play, Rosalind’s father has been sent into exile so we have a young woman, Rosie, whose mother has just died and who is looking for her father. She has never met him and all she has is an address in Adelaide Road. Through the course of her journey she finds love.”

Recordings of Mannix’s own poems, and pieces written by workshop participants will also be accessible via an iPhone app, which users can call up at anytime to follow the route of the story.

“You can follow it during the live performances or if you don’t catch them, the GPS connected app can guide you down the road and let you see and hear poems images and stories which are thematically connected to the main story.”

Mannix’s poems were inspired by sessions with elderly users of the Charlie Ratchford Centre on Belmont Street, young people at Ideas Tap at the Roundhouse, a workshop with the under-fives rhyme time at Chalk Farm library, and her workshops with adults at Kentish Town, Chalk Farm and Swiss Cottage libraries.

“As much as I have inspired workshop participants to come up with their own creative, writing, they have inspired me to write for this,” says Mannix, a former writer in residence for Camden Council. “I wanted to cover all the age groups to follow through this idea of going through the seven ages of life. The atmosphere of the whole show is romantic and beautiful and fun and trades on the interplay with the real world, the dramatic world and the virtual world.

“I hope they will get a real sense of something a bit different that has its roots in Shakespeare but uses technology to push the boundaries of what theatre can be. Turning Adelaide Road into a stage and getting the audience via the app to answer themed questions that will collate the answers into a poem is a real embodiment of the notion that all the world’s a stage and we are all players.”

o Performances of Adelaide Road take place at 2pm, 3.30pm and 5pm on May 14. Tickets are free but must be reserved in advance by calling 0844 8001110. The iPhone app is available to download free of charge from the App Store, guiding phone users down the road where they can listen to poetry recordings at key locations along the journey. There is also a website map at allowing browsers to access the story and additional material from their armchair.

o The RSC’s current Hampstead Theatre season continues with Filter Theatre Company’s Silence (until May 28) and American Trade (June 2-18).