Monday, 4 October 2010

Sutton House.

Spent the afternoon being shown round the amazing Sutton House in Hackney - where we're hoping to bring The Canterbury Tales next Spring as part of our tour of National Trust properties. Sutton has recently fallen into Gary's management portfolio and he couldn't have been more chuffed to receive us. Naomi, who manages day to day gave us a tour and explained how rather than trying to restore it to its sixteenth century glory they're using the house's many rooms to tell the story of the its numerous residents over time and by extension explore the migrant history of Hackney itself. Originally, when all this was fields, it was the manor of the influential Tudor statesman Sir Richard Sadlier - a maverick strategist with a dark profiteering hand in the dissolution of the monasteries. Later it was a refuge to huguenot silk weavers, merchant sailors, a school, a home for the Wenlock players who presented patriotic historical pageants during the first world war, a fire warden centre in the second and finally in the 1980's a squat for an anarchist collective. Each of these periods in turn is honoured. Adjoining is a scrap of waste ground which Naomi and Gary have big plans to turn into a community garden.

We met some of the staff: Nichola and Chris who were very positive and Ann, one of the many lively elders who volunteer and seem in many ways to run the place. She kept offering to make us tea and couldn't have been more enthusiatic and welcoming.

The show here will be quite different to anything we plan for Ham. The spaces are intimate and each story will have to be performed to only a handful of people at a time as they make their way through the property - although the barn and courtyard may offer the opportunity to bring the audience back together at the end. It's very exciting.

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