THE year is 2044. Planet Earth is a lifeless wasteland. The only chance of survival is to be accepted into Eden, a city enclosed in a protective dome where the inhabitants are free from the dangers of the "outside", but the promise of paradise is not all it seems.
So begins Eden, an ambitious production by Leeds company Displace Yourself Theatre that will play Friargate Theatre in York on March 22 and 23 in a switch from York Theatre Royal, where redevelopment work continues.
Eden combines narrative, movement and a specially composed soundtrack to present a story built around the challenges surrounding homelessness and social divides, where two individuals experience an emotional journey of social exclusion in a world with little room for forgiveness.
The project began eight years ago when Jennifer Nevin, Displace Yourself Theatre's co-artistic director, struck up a conversation with a Big Issue seller outside the West Yorkshire Playhouse in Leeds. This conversation led to the company reaching out to the margins of society to offer a platform for often under-represented communities to express themselves through theatre, striving to raise awareness.
As part of the development process, Jennifer and fellow co-artistic director Mike Auger held a series of residences at ARC, the Stockton-on-Tees arts centre, Leeds theatre company Slung Low’s HUB and Theatre in the Mill in Bradford. During these residencies, groups working with vulnerable adults were invited to participate in workshops, in turn helping the work to grow from within the community.
Creative workshops used theatre and movement exercises to explore the show's themes, alongside discussions of the issues surrounding homelessness. The workshop participants were then invited to see a sharing of the work and offer feedback.
"We found that through movement we were able to convey a deeper and more textured narrative, enabling the characters to go on a greater emotional journey," says co-director Mike Auger. "We devised a unique physical language, which created a richer experience for the audience that wouldn't have been possible through text alone."
Welcoming the Leeds company to York, the Theatre Royal's associate director, Juliet Forster, says: "We're delighted to be working with an innovative young company like Displace Yourself Theatre and the important work they're doing with the under-represented areas of communities to develop their narrative and tell these stories.
"We're also extremely grateful to Riding Lights for enabling us to programme this piece at Friargate Theatre during the Theatre Royal’s closure. We're really pleased to be able to work with Displace Yourself Theatre in presenting this performance in York."
Tickets are on sale at £10, concessions £7, from the Theatre Royal box office in person, on 01904 623568 or at yorktheatreroyal.co.uk