Petrification is a very particular type of love letter to the North East of England written at a very particular time in two people’s lives.
Both of us, Zoe Cooper as the writer of Petrification and Mark Maughan as its director, have our own relationship with the region. Mark was born in South Shields and left when he was seventeen, Zoe moved to Newcastle in her late twenties from her native London. We met at a time when both of us were making homes in the city where the other had grown up and this swapping of paths became the basis for a play to work on together.
Opportunity presented itself in the form of a commission from Gateshead International Festival of Theatre (GIFT). Like a lot of theatre before it, Petrification began life in a small upstairs room belonging to a pub. On the back of five days rehearsal with two actors who are still part of the cast and a shoestring budget, we presented thirty minutes of material to two packed audiences. A real highlight of the shows were the audiences they attracted. Half of the room was a festival audience and the other half had wandered in from downstairs because tickets were a fiver and their friend’s brother’s son was in it.
The play has grown over time. It has been through many drafts, an extra character has been added and it is a whole hour and a half long. We have enjoyed three full weeks of rehearsal and have light, sound and set designers to help us create the worlds that the characters inhabit. However, what we have tried to keep at the heart of the piece through all of the process, and as we bring the play to Live next week is the atmosphere of that pub, the duality of those two audiences, and our two experiences. We want to examine what it is like to grow up somewhere, to stay or to leave and to come back together as a family. We also want to recreate the uniting atmosphere of a good old fashioned session in a pub, with all the subtle digs, bad jokes, sunk pints and half remembered memories which that involves.
In this way we are very excited that Petrification will be touring nationally, but it feels fitting that this play, which is so much about the North East should begin it’s journey at Live Theatre.
By Zoe Cooper and Mark Maughan
Petrification is on at Live Theatre from Thursday 26 to Saturday 28 May at 7.30pm (Matinee Saturday 2pm). Tickets are £18-£10, £16-£12 over 60s concs, £10-£6 other concs and can be bought online at http://www.live.org.uk or via our box office on (0191) 232 1232.