As a passionate Bedfordian I was quite excited to see that SE Theatre Company were bringing their new show ‘A day in: Bedford’ to The Place Theatre.
It promised to be built around the experiences of the residents of the town, exploring the trials, tribulations, highs and lows of Bedfordians, with the purpose of exploring what it means to live in Bedford in 2020.
The idea behind the show was to get testimonials from local residents about what day-to-day life for them was like, pulling the findings together into a bespoke show in just a few days.
The cast of four talented actors were great at pulling off the multitude of characters they created for the show. There were recognisable scenes, creatively performed, and a few laughs too.
From the frustrated parent trying to get their kids to school through traffic, to the elderly ladies discussing Lina Ognissanti’s delicious Dinky Doughnuts, there were clearly some well-known insights into 21st Century Bedford life.
Sadly, it didn’t quite delve deep enough.
Yes there were nods to commuters, dog walkers, coffee shops and rowing but there was zero mention of what really makes Bedford great, its diversity.
It seemed that the only testimonials were from the white middle classes. The show, therefore, gave a very different view of the town that most of us will be aware of.
The concept is a great idea, but it felt like I was watching ‘A day in: Insert any town name here’.
Apart from the mention of Lina Ognissanti and a well placed pub quiz sketch that gave some basic Bedford facts, there didn’t seem to be anything that was truly specific to our town.
There was almost zero mention of our Italian population, which was surprising considering 1 in 5 people in the town are of Italian descent.
There was no mention of our massive Asian and Polish communities, as well as the Caribbean, Portuguese, and other cultures that really do make Bedford an amazing place to live.
Where was the mention of our two breweries, Queen’s Park, the River Festival and others, Bedford Park Concerts (which has been here for 25 years), the brick works, and so on?
Granted, it was the first time the SE Theatre Company has produced and performed this show. It’s a new idea and to pull together a full show in a few days is no easy task, but the real work should be in the research.
All credit to the cast and director who held an impromptu Q&A with the audience afterwards, seeking feedback on how they might improve, they plan to take this show on the road to other towns and it’s a format that may travel well.
It was clear that many were disappointed at the lack of culture, diversity and uniquely Bedfordian elements in the show, but all in all we had fun as an audience seeing what they’d put together.
The SE Theatre Company, and the cast they worked with, are genuinely great at theatre and performance, but there needs to be more time and effort devoted to really getting under the skin of the towns they may take this idea to.
Send out the surveys earlier, speak to local experts, use local media – we offered to put the survey on our pages but got no reply, it wasn’t even included in the media release.
Simple things like this will go a long way and if they can get them right, the ‘Day in:’ series could well be a winner.