This hardback tome includes the background to our years touring, the full text of all our plays and some of the insite we have found along the way
We’ve told the story so many times, how on the plane home from our very first visit to the West Bank, Palestine in 2009, we felt an overwhelming desire to do something, anything that might help indicate our loving support for the people we had met. Out of this came Journeymen, a Quaker theatre company specialising in raising human rights concerns.
We had no ground plan nor did we have an official structure with a board of trustees etc. There were just the two of us and our combined skills set of researching, writing, and making theatre. To begin with, we were self-funding. We were both still working full-time in FE and Peace Education then. Commissions started to happen, with a start-up fee attached, and before we knew it, we were full-time touring actors with a packed work diary and a strong attachment to Google Maps. The female voice of our SatNav became a familiar one she led us into a good number of tricky, off the beaten track locations and definitely lots of very ‘untouristy’ parts of London. Journeymen was made even more secure when Stourbridge Quakers adopted the company as a ‘concern’ of the meeting. This meant we had it so much easier than many a small-scale theatre company as we had free rehearsal space, free storage for our sets and props, an ever supportive group of people willing to ‘test-drive’ every show before it went properly public, a performance venue, and, financial underpinning to ensure we didn’t personally end up too out of pocket. It was recognised by other Quakers well before we did, that Journeymen’s work was Quaker ministry.
Other people gave freely and as acts of good will, in particular our technician, Tim French, who patiently listened to our vague descriptions of sound effects required and then pieced together play tracks for the majority of our shows. He also designed and managed our website, produced and customised publicity to order, and we got all of this gratis. Locally based Fizzog Theatre lent us their voices in recording studios for dramatic voice-overs. It cost us nothing. The illustrations in this book are originals by professional artist Jacky Fellows (also, incidentally, a fine actor with Fizzog).
We have been sustained through the energy of Quakers and their belief that positive change is possible and, through audiences appreciating that telling a personalised story in drama form, can stimulate one into action, however small that action seems to be.
After virtually every performance, as we were dismantling the set and the sound system, Ffriends would invariably approach us and give lovely plaudits. These were always appreciated but we so often felt that the plaudits were coming to the wrong people. We would say that performing a play was the relatively easy part. The hard stuff is what Quaker and non-Quaker folks are doing every day as grass-root workers and as essential support infrastructure for refugees, rough sleepers, people serving prison sentences; indeed, those people who get pushed outside of our society, who need their self-worth reinforced with compassion, sometimes to the point of having their lives saved by acts of kindness. At this point it will come as no surprise that we want prison chaplains, especially Quaker prison chaplains, to be given a big shout-out.
There are copies of each of our play-scripts in this book. What we haven’t included with them are details of the music tracks we used. Blending music with the action in our plays was a big part of our house style. Choosing the right pieces was a lovely part of process, especially ferreting out unusual or unexpected tracks to signal scene changes, passing of time, mood changes. Our audiences rarely commented on our play tracks unless they worked in the theatre industry themselves but the sound was vital to us. People wishing to use our play scripts have the freedom to shape them with whatever sounds they choose. This also goes for staging the plays. Using creativity is an important freedom and too much control will only serve to deaden the impulse.
(* The double ‘Ff’ in Ffriends is deliberate as it denotes the alternative word for Quakers and ‘friend’ as in general usage.)