From 12 November to 19 December 2020 London’s Royal Court Theatre will reopens its doors with new socially distanced live performances around the building under the title Living Newspaper: A Counter Narrative.
The venue will present six weekly editions of a living newspaper with each edition created and edited by a collective of writers. Living Newspaper is a major writer-based project drawing on the radical history of the Federal Theatre Project of the US – an arts programme to mobilise and employ unemployed artists and theatre workers surfacing from the Great Depression.
The Federal Theatre Project was a disruptive, responsive, social justice art form for a time of civic and economic trauma and contributed to the development of some of the most extraordinary US voices. The commissioned plays were under the umbrella of Living Newspaper and dealt with issues of the day.
In November the Royal Court will be reopen the doors to create six editions of living newspapers for our times, led by writers, and working with freelance artists – actors, designers, stage managers, technicians and choreographers.
Each weekly edition will be created and edited by a collective of writers to make a live newspaper with headlines, features and columns which will be performed in spaces around the Royal Court building.
Commenting on the reopening, Royal Court Theatre artistic director Vicky Featherstone said: “I first learnt about The Federal Theatre Project when I was 18. It galvanised me then about theatre as a force for change and stuck with me over the years. One day during lockdown I remembered it and how vital it had been not only for saving the theatre industry after the Great Depression but for encouraging those previously underrepresented and for speaking truth to power with celebration and joy.
“As ever at the Royal Court we turn to our diverse community of writers whose ideas, perspectives, experiences can challenge us, surprise us and can make us imagine the impossible. The aims of Living Newspaper are quite simple, to give as many people as possible work, to bring our theatre back to life and to create something which is urgent, dynamic, political and disruptive – acknowledging the hugely changed and changing times. It is a massive experiment but it is only something radical which has a chance. Onwards!”
Editions will include satire of the week’s events, alongside long-form think pieces, as well as weekly dating columns, cartoons, the world in pictures, a sports section and a surprise theatre supplement. Plus, every week a space will be given to a guest company to create whatever they want in response to the world we are in.
Living Newspaper will work with a newly created collective of emerging young designers, to create a radical imagining of the space with a manifesto of new ways of making theatre.
The theatre will continue its curtailed exploration of the climate crisis by ensuring all live performances are carbon net zero. It will also begin Living Archive, a radical exploration of plays from the Royal Court’s history as part of the theatre’s anti-racism and de-colonising work, asking what has been chosen to archive and who will hold the narrative going forward.
Performances will take place throughout the day from 11am to 11pm, Thursday to Saturday. Enhanced safety measures will be in place throughout the building to support a socially distanced audience. Each edition will be made accessible to all. Audiences will be able to watch performances of each living newspaper live at the Royal Court Theatre, or online at home. More details will be announced in the coming weeks.
The Royal Court Theatre has also launched a fundraising campaign to raise £100,000 to reopen the doors, to support Living Newspaper and the theatre’s future. Every £1 raised will be doubled thanks to a matched funding pot generously donated by the Royal Court Theatre Board and Development Council.