The Clegg family at the centre of this drama is entirely fictional, but like all families it has its history and habits, its squabbles and secrets. They are in flux, change is upon them and they are struggling to cope, to hold onto their sense of who they are and how to live that out in the context of their very specific time and place.
Who are these characters? We see boys trying to become men, a brother trying to be something he fundamentally doubts and a grandmother trying to carry on being herself. They are all imitating, copying, maintaining and deceiving themselves. And during the course of the drama they also toy with letting go of long held beliefs, values, dreams and secrets.
A New Jerusalem reveal how complicated, messy and treacherous notions of identity are and how we can both be defined by a single category (mother, brother, English), and yet also still understand ourselves to be so much more than that.
A New Jerusalem
People have grown used to thinking about and ‘caring about’ people who have genius, apparently, but are trapped within a disabled, wayward or non-functioning body. Terry isn’t one of these geniuses. He’s you or me, the person who serves us in the market or the man who sweeps the street, he could be within the accepted norms of intelligence or he could perhaps struggle to understand the simplest of sums. He has the right to be mentally ordinary or even dull just as he has the right to be an intellectual giant, and his dilemma is no less whichever he is.
I do not believe that a person with high intelligence is any more precious or deserving of our care and understanding and compassion than someone with learning difficulties or an impaired understanding of the world. We’re all in the soup together bright and dull alike, none of us have earned the brains we’ve got, so why all the desire to see something ‘extra-ordinary’ in people like Terry, as if it is only this which deserves our attention? Few of us would ever get a glance from the rest of the world if this was true. Having said that, the play is not about Terry. It is about looking after Terry, what that does to him and his family.
The Final Cut may be downloaded here
Homelessness is not just the absence of roof, warmth and relationships but a state of mind. It is often the very bottom of poverty, the depth of despair. People with no roof have a sense of hopelessness, resignation and powerlessness.
Poverty does not of itself ennoble and there is little romantic within it. Sometimes however it does enable you to see people anew in a strong stark light which takes away all the trappings. When everything is taken away, or more especially given up, some begin a journey which can become an Odyssey, into themselves.
The homeless who appear in this play have a shattered knowledge of themselves. They have been compelled, like tortoises, to carry absolutely everything important with them. They have been compelled to come to terms with fundamental and disturbing experiences which can both impoverish and uplift.
I wrote the play to lay part of myself bare, to say something about the community of homeless men and women I’ve listened to, for each have a voice which may be heard and possibly have some small effect on the way we think of homelessness.
No Fixed Address can be downloaded here