A high rise concrete tower block, Skypoint, built for social housing in the 1960s. Throughout it’s history it is hated and feared by many of it’s residents; a place of deprivation and crime in it’s first three decades, but increasingly romanticised as an iconic piece of architecture in later years, it’s eventually listed and slated for refurbishment as luxury flats.
1967, the building’s flamboyant Marxist architect Ernest Fleming has moved into the top floor flat for two months and is hosting a champagne party to meet the residents of his newly opened tower and hear, perhaps, a little constructive criticism to help him make improvements for his next project. However the only guests to turn up are a working class couple, Terry and Julie, expecting their first child. Unhappy at having been moved far away from family and friends, they are only too happy for the opportunity to vent their anger and frustrations at Ernest, as the evening quickly descends into chaos.
1997, Colin, a cripplingly shy and lonely gay man in his late 30s is living in the top floor flat. When he loses his job, he becomes increasingly isolated and alone, descending into a spiral of depression and neglect. It will be another 10 years, when the residents of the tower are being forced to leave in 2007, that his dead body is finally discovered.
2010, the tower has been boarded up and abandoned for three years, pending a refurbishment. Former residents are furious that they have been given no guarantee they’ll ever be able to return to their homes. A small group of political activists break into Skypoint, occupying the top floor, planning to open up the tower to the homeless, but they start to realise the tower is not as deserted as they had initially presumed as one of the flat’s previous residents begins to make his ghostly presence known.
2017, a newly reopened Skypoint welcomes its first new occupants, a wealthy young professional couple. Having hosted a flat-warming party for friends, they notice a dark red stain on the floor of the otherwise spotless flat which they initially assume to be some red wine spilled by one of their just departed guests. Yet however hard they scrub, the stain won’t disappear, and every day it seems to spread until it starts to look suspiciously like a human outline.
Part social history, part ghost story, the play is inspired by a visit I made to Balfron Tower as part of Open House London in 2014. I’m really interested in the way the architecture of where we live dramatically affects our well-being, and informs our our sense of who we are. I’m also fascinated by how attitudes to high-rise tower blocks and brutalist architecture have changed drastically over time. It’ll be about urban loneliness and isolation, the lack of affordable housing, the atomisation of society, but above all I want it to be a gripping, scary, heartbreaking, emotional roller coaster of exciting entertainment.
Who are your ideal audience be? What are you going to give them with this piece?
250 words. (Not age specific, but talk about horror elements- immersive aspects- bringing in non-theatre audiences)
I don’t believe in reducing audiences to age ranges or pandering to demographics, as these can often be reductive and misguided, but I do want to create work that reaches beyond the usual theatregoing audience. So much theatre new writing seems to me to be preoccupied with pleasing the Arts Council over pleasing audiences, box-ticking various social issues to fulfil public engagement criteria; sometimes feeling like little more than TIE for grown ups. I want to create something instead that genuinely does engage the public; that’s pure unashamed entertainment, thrilling and terrifying, but also telling previously unheard stories to the audience about themselves and the world we live in, making them look at the everyday in a new light. I greatly admire the works of Alistair McDowall (X and Pomona) and Anthony Nielsen, and the way they put stories on stage that most people would generally associate with cinema (such as horror and sci-fi) but they do so with writing that is every bit as intelligent and challenging as anything else in theatre.
Where would it play? Why?
250 words. (Balfron Tower?)
Ideally it would go on at somewhere like Balfron Tower or another similar (preferably empty) concrete tower block. (A temporarily unoccupied office space might also be an option) These locations would add to the tension and excitement of the drama, as they are inherently dramatic and evocative spaces, also creating a sense of event (in the same way Punchdrunk or Secret Cinema do), fully immersing the audiences in the story, and making them feel really part of the show. But it could also equally be staged in a conventional theatre or studio space, as it would all take place in one flat interior.
Please tell us about any experience that is relevant to this project.
In 2014, a play of mine, Preoccupied, was staged at The Vaults. A ghost story, I loved that it provoked screams from several audience members, and I want to recreate that senseof audience excitement and pus it even further. In March this year my play Protect and Survive was also staged at The Vaults as part of VAULT Festival. Set in an underground government nuclear bunker during the Cold War, it utilised the subterranean location of the venue to help tell the story and add to the atmosphere of tension and dread. I’m interested in work that responds to the venues they re performed in, and which plunges the audience viscerally into the action with the characters. I’ve been writing plays for the stage for well over a decade now. This year my play Happy To Help was staged at the Park Theatre for a four-week run, with the play-text published by Methuen Drama, and I have been previously short-listed for both the Liverpool Hope Playwriting Prize and Off West End.com’ ‘Adopt A Playwright’ Award. I am represented by Nick Quinn at The Agency.