An exploration of the Universal Credit System, Laura Lindow’s pertinent show Credit utilises research gathered by various organisations in Gateshead and Newcastle as well as the experiences of people on Universal Credit to start up a conversation and examine whether the system benefits those its meant to support. Initially programmed for April earlier on this year, Credit will be exclusively previewed online on Tuesday 16th September, followed by Q & As discussing this important topic further. Ahead of the streaming, Cap-a-Pie Theatre’s Artistic Director Brad McCormick tells us how he’s worked with Laura to develop the show, developing the show during this unpredictable time and the importance of the Q & A aspect of the preview.
We’re really excited to share something from the show. We were obviously hugely disappointed not to be able to premiere it in April as we’d planned. There was loads of interest in it and it was a really exciting piece of work to be involved with. So it’s great that we’re able to give people an impression of what the piece is all about.
Credit draws on an in-depth study published by leading experts into the roll out of Universal Credit in Gateshead and Newcastle. How have both yourself and Laura worked together to develop the show?
We did a week of Research & Development in January – half of it was more ‘traditional’ rehearsing, ie. working with actors to try things out in the rehearsal room, but we also spent half the time just talking to people – Universal Credit (UC) claimants, people who work at organisations like Citizens Advice who have close contact with UC claimants. We even managed to speak to someone who worked for the Department for Work and Pensions. After that Laura went away and wrote a brilliant script.
The show has seen Cap-a-Pie collaborate with many organisations, including Newcastle University, Teesside University, Gateshead Council, Newcastle Council, Citizens Advice Gateshead amongst others. What have you learned about the Universal Credit system working with these organisations?
To be honest, I didn’t know a whole lot about Universal Credit before we started because I’m fortunate that I’ve never had to apply for it. One of my main takeaways is that for a system that was designed to simplify everything, it does seem incredibly complicated. And from speaking to all our collaborators and based on the findings of the research the conclusion is that it isn’t a system that is working for many people, especially those who are most vulnerable.
Written pre the Covid 19 crisis, Credit‘s themes are even more pertinent. How have you found developing the show during this unpredictable and unprecedented time?
With so much uncertainty, we were wondering how the show might fit into a world that has completely changed. But after a period during proper lockdown when UC claimants, new and existing, weren’t required to look for work, now that sanctions are back it seems like business as usual (as much as that is possible).
In 1 or 2 years time, or whenever the dust has settled on this, it will be interesting to see what the welfare state will look like because the world of work will almost certainly have changed.
On a practical level we did some virtual rehearsals in April to work on the show as much as we could while in lockdown. There were some really useful things that came out but you realise how important it is to be in the room together in order to make theatre.
The streaming will be followed by a Q&A with The Guardian’s social policy editor Patrick Butler, Gateshead’s Director of Public Health Alice Wiseman and the show’s writer Laura Lindow. Why have you added this element to the reading?
It was always our plan to have a Q&A after the live shows in April – I think that when you make something that is so inspired by research it can be really useful to give the audience some access to that knowledge after seeing the show. Those people can expand on the themes and explain more of the research and the two things really complement each other well.
Initially scheduled to open in April and streamed in September, what are your hopes for the show post the Covid-19 crisis?
Our hope is that we will be able to share the full production at some point in the future with a live theatre audience just as we first imagined it.
What can audiences expect from the reading?
The stream will show the middle section of the play that has been updated to take into account the pandemic. It will be very low-tech, we primarily want people to hear Laura’s beautiful words and to get a sense of the show’s themes. We hope it will make people think about the welfare system and how all of us, our family members and fellow citizens, are affected. Through watching the rehearsed reading and engaging in the Q&A we want audiences to be inspired to think about what the welfare state should look like for our communities.
Credit will be streamed online on Tuesday 16th September 2020, to find out more about the preview, visit here…