This Thursday 30 November 2017, The Playground Theatre on Latimer Road is to stage a rehearsed reading of Gregory Evans’ Shirleymander, a dramatization of the Shirley Porter Westminster Council ‘homes for votes’ scandal of the 1980s. The reading will star Tracy-Ann Oberman, Patrick Ryecart and Michael Simkins and will be a precursor to a fully-fledged production of the work next summer, running 22 May to 16 June 2018.
London 1986 – London is in the midst of a housing crisis. Homes stand empty while homelessness soars. Close-knit communities are destroyed for profit. Tory councils are accused of ‘social cleansing’ as families are evicted and forced to move far away or into unsafe flats, whilst affordable homes are sold as investment properties.
Fast-forward thirty years.
Staged in newly opened The Playground Theatre, barely a stone’s throw from Grenfell Tower, Shirleymander tells the story of the central London Council, which, thirty years ago, was at the centre of a major scandal. Westminster Council, under Porter’s controlling bullying, autocratic style, her boundless energy and vast wealth, was led it into a mire of paranoia, fear and skullduggery as it pursued, secret, illegal policies that destroyed communities, reputations, lives, hopes … and finally Porter herself.
Exploring the perennial themes of greed, ambition and the normalisation of corruption, Shirleymander is a shocking, funny and often times moving reminder of how it is the weakest who bear the brunt when institutional wrong-doing takes control.
First presented as a radio play in 2009 and inspired by BBC journalist Andrew Hosken’s book Nothing Like A Dame, Gregory Evans’ comedy-drama will receive it’s stage premiere at The Playground Theatre from May 22 to June 16 2018. The production is timed to coincide with the first anniversary of The Grenfell Tower fire.
Director Anthony Biggs says:
“As London’s new neighbourhood theatre, it’s vital we engage with our local community and tell stories that really matter to our audiences. When I first read this gripping play I was blown away by the obvious parallels with the recent events at Grenfell Tower, which stands just a few streets away from the theatre. Shirley Porter’s Westminster Council policies might be the stuff of nightmares, but it’s happening now, right under our noses.”