2021 and 2022 Double National Dance Awards nominee Rhiannon Faith Company’s new show finally takes to the stage after Covid cancellations
In bold and brave choreographer Rhiannon Faith’s newly staged show DROWNTOWN, six strangers, weighed down by individual darkness, come to a deprived coastal land. Seemingly abandoned, there is no one to help but themselves. Stuck between the remains of a broken community and the vast bleakness of the sea, they struggle with isolation, shame and failed support systems. Autobiographical testimonials and text amplify the voices of the vulnerable and unheard in modern Britain’s areas of social deprivation.
Originally slated for a live world premiere at London’s Barbican in June 2020 followed by a tour, DROWNTOWN will finally hit the stage for the first time this month with a premiere date at Harlow Playhouse on Tuesday 27 September at 7.30 pm followed by regional touring dates and London’s The Place on 10 November and more dates in the pipeline for spring 2023.
While unable to tour Faith created a short ‘prequel’ film Drowntown Lockdown followed by a full length Drowntown film. Both were widely and enthusiastically acclaimed by viewers and critics, but nothing is a substitute for the full live experience. In a four star review The Stage called the film‘a thought-provoking brand of physical theatre that is all Faith’s own’.
Dark, uncompromising and moving yet, accessible, tender and physically stunning, DROWNTOWN continues the vein of gritty dance-theatre from this radical choreographer. Bold and brave, at times bleak (in keeping with its subject matter), the show uses autobiographical testimonials and text to give voice to the vulnerable and unheard in modern Britain’s areas of social deprivation. With tenderness and honesty, the show holds up a mirror to a society at tipping point. DROWNTOWN is here to try to help save our world from drowning.
‘So many communities are broken, people are drowning, so something must be going wrong,’ said Rhiannon. ‘The conversations have dried up and what exists within us, wounds and emotion, just gets pushed down to the sea-bed. I want to reopen those conversations urgently. With the extended and combined fallouts of Covid, Brexit and the cost of living and energy crises, DROWNTOWN is, if anything, more relevant in 2022 than it was three years ago.’
When originally scheduled and then rescheduled DROWNTOWN was named in the Evening Standard’s eight ‘Best dance shows to see in 2020’ and The Guardian’s top five tips for 2021. See the trailer here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TDXXaYZ_Mj8
Before creating the show Rhiannon undertook extensive research into areas of social deprivation. ‘I spent research residencies in coastal towns including Jaywick, Clacton-on-Sea and Great Yarmouth, all places with a strong sense of community and identity but also some of the highest levels of social and economic deprivation in the UK. Happy destinations for holiday goers that become full of darkness and degradation when left behind’ she added.
Social exclusion and isolation are rife in such places with high rates of unemployment, long-term health problems and high demand on underfunded local services. They also tend to lack frequent and reliable public transport and high-speed internet. Recent research suggests that loneliness can increase the risk of premature death by 30%. Nine million people in the UK say they often feel lonely, 7% of 18-64 year olds feel socially isolated, rising to 11% for over 65s.
Performed and devised with a cast of six (Dominic Coffey, Sam Ford, Shelley Eva Haden, Donald Hutera, Finetta Oliver-Mikolajska and Marla King) the show shines a light on individual suffering and discusses loneliness, social isolation, bereavement and suicide. Suitable for over 16s, it contains strong language and scenes that some may find upsetting.
DROWNTOWN is co-produced by Harlow Playhouse. Commissioned by Cambridge Junction with commissioning support from DanceEast. Supported by Brighton Dome and Festival Ltd, South East Dance, and using public funding by Arts Council England.
Rhiannon Faith Company makes radically tender dance theatre, working nationally on big stages and locally with communities on the margins, always with social change and care at its heart. Based in Harlow, Essex, with nation-wide impact, they are making bold, ambitious moves to secure a future as global leaders in original dance theatre with a social purpose, to champion community transformation and authentic belonging for all. The Guardian said Faith is ‘one of the few UK artists making dance theatre that is pointedly socially conscious’.
The company has been nominated for four National Dance Awards; ‘Best Independent Company’ 2021 & 2022, ‘Best Digital Choreography’ (DROWNTOWN LOCKDOWN) in 2021 and ‘Best Dance Film’ (DROWNTOWN live film) in 2022. In addition, Rhiannon Faith was nominated for an AWA Women In Dance Leadership Award 2022. www.rhiannonfaith.com
The company’s last show Smack That (a Conversation) was described by The Guardian as ‘dance, participatory theatre and awareness-raising in one welcoming package,… a party game to help change the world’. The Stage said it was ‘Inventive demanding and, immersive … a work of urgent importance and Dance Tabs enthused about how it ‘treats its subject matter with huge sensitivity and honesty’. All awarded 4 stars.