Caro Meets Festivals Interview Theatre Interview

Brian Logan: Fog Everywhere

By | Published on Wednesday 25 October 2017

Camden People’s Theatre is well known for its plethora of themed seasons and festivals focusing on specific themes. The latest, Shoot The Breeze, inspired by the problem of pollution in the capital, is headlined by ‘Fog Everywhere’, a new and exciting collaboration addressing the impact of air quality on young people in London.

To find out more about the show, I spoke to  Brian Logan, director of the peice, and, as you probably know, AD of CPT.

CM: Can you start by telling us what Fog Everywhere is about – what are the themes and issues the show addresses?
BL: It’s about London air pollution, and specifically, its effects on children and young people – which are pretty drastic. Pollution is a big (and getting bigger) talking point among Londoners right now – with justification. It’s estimated that 10,000 Londoners die early each year due to London’s toxic air. It’s also stunting our children’s lung development and negatively impacting on their mental health. We wanted to explore and address that onstage, in a professional production made in collaboration with air quality experts and local young people. And also drawing on the history and iconography of ‘the London fog’ – the pea-soupers for which London, in the olden days, used to be famous. So that’s what we’ve done.

CM: What format does it take? What kind of show can we expect?
BL: You can expect something funny, and very live; quite personal – it’s about the lives and experiences of the eight teenagers who’re in it – and often abstract. It’s playful docu-theatre, in short, which tries to be honest about whether and how young people engage with and care about air pollution at all. It’s as much about being young in London today as it is about our poisonous air.

Basically, over 70 minutes or so, it traces the journey of these eight local young people through the issue of air pollution. Some of them are angry about it, some of them not bothered. They argue, they sing; they pretend to be Jack the Ripper. The show follows their stories, and splinters off into sketches about breathing, say, or cars, or what the future holds for all of us city-dwellers. It’s got the past, present and future in it. It’s epic. But it’s also got balloons in it, and crooning cows.

CM: How was the show created, and who has been involved in putting it together?
BL: It’s been created as a collaboration between Camden People’s Theatre, our partners at the Environmental Research Group at Kings College London – the go-to people in the UK for pollution intel – and with students at Westminster Kingsway College in Kings Cross. We did some preliminary ideas development this March with professional theatre-makers, then worked with the young cast for a few weeks in spring, culminating in a pilot performance in June. For the last 2 months – part-time, sandwiched between the cast’s other educational commitments – we’ve been making the finished show. What ends up onstage has been largely created by the cast, working with me and our musical director, designer, etc.

CM: Is there a specific message?
BL: Not a message as such. We want to raise awareness, certainly. But what people do with their raised awareness is up to them. I personally think that London air pollution is a public health emergency and requires instant action. The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, seems to agree, but our government doesn’t. Our show certainly aims to impress upon people how damaging pollution is, but that’s just one (and not the most interesting) of many things it does. So yes, we want to express strong opinions, but we want to entertain our audience too; and stick a (non-polluting) firework under their imaginations too.

CM: The show is part of the wider Shoot The Breeze fortnight. Can you tell us what inspired this particular season of events?
BL: Often at Camden People’s Theatre we programme themed seasons and festivals of work. Often, the theme is socio-political or otherwise of-the-moment, and this fortnight is built around ‘Fog Everywhere’. We don’t want air pollution to be considered in isolation – or even (as it sometimes is) in opposition to concerns over climate change. We wanted to present it in the context of a cavalcade of exciting new performances about ecology and the environment. We think the different shows in the season will spark off each other in interesting ways, and offer audiences the chance to think about environmental challenges in a holistic way.

CM: What other performances can we expect from it?
BL: You can expect some really terrific and imaginative work from some of the UK’s most exciting new theatre-makers. We’ve got a show about the threatened existence of bees, and another – tongue slightly in cheek – about ‘the ethics of reproduction in an overcrowded world’. We’ve got a cabaret show about ‘eco-anxiety’, and a show about ‘going home, climate change, and hope in the face of helplessness’. And lots of discussion events with big-hitting experts on the challenges facing our beleaguered city and planet.

CM: Is there a hope that the event can inspire some kind of action, or increase awareness?
BL: Very much so. Obviously, we’re a small theatre; we can’t save the world alone (although we’ll give it a good try…) But this production is engaging directly with dozens – hundreds, even – of young people, plus the wider audience who comes to see it; and many more again who read or hear about the project in the media. That’s a lot of minds to change, or awareness to raise.

And, less directly, we strongly believe we can be part of the critical mass that will bring about meaningful change. The conversation around pollution, in particular, is fast-moving. London’s new T- (for toxicity) on polluting vehicles is introduced this week. Other European cities have announced far more progressive anti-pollution measures. Our government, and the car industry, is under pressure to raise its game. It feels to me that change is afoot, if the people who care keep shouting. We’re lending our small voice to that chorus, and if everyone does that, then change is inevitable.

CM: Is the season a concept you’ll revisit in the future, or a one-off?
BL: Who knows? I can’t see beyond November 2nd (our official launch night) at the moment. I’m sure we’ll revisit ecological concerns more widely. And it may well be that ‘Fog Everywhere’ has a future life beyond this CPT run. But our priority at the moment is to make this show as good, and as widely seen, as we can. Then: we’ll get back to you.

CM: What’s coming up next at CPT?
BL: There’s always a lot coming next at CPT. In November, that includes a cracking two-week season of hot-off-the-press pilot projects from some of the most adventurous theatre artists we know. That’s called ‘The Shape of Things to Come’, and happens from Nov 21 to Dec 2. That has some really mouthwatering shows in it. In December (from the 5th to the 9th), we’ve got a riveting solo show from Adam Welsh, who compares his own life to that of an American child (Adam’s near-namesake) who went missing in 1981. It’s really provocative and tender and brilliant, and I heartily recommend it.

‘Fog Everywhere’ is on at Camden People’s Theatre from 31 Oct-11 Nov, see this page here for details of the show, and this page here for an overview of events happening as part of Shoot The Breeze.

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