Enter the caravan of dreams

A scene from Mobile.



Where do you come from?

It can be a loaded question. In our class-conscious (some might say class obsessed) nation, your answer to that question can open doors or close them – pigeon hole you or set you free. But what if you’re not sure what the answer to that question is?

This is the premise behind the latest show from innovative small-scale theatre company, The Paper Birds. The show is called Mobile, and it uses everything from Connect 4 to the space shuttle, to ask some questions about social mobility and class. Questions like – how important are our childhood backgrounds to our adult selves? How does it feel to leave behind the people you’ve grown up with? Can you ever truly escape your background?

Oh yeah, and it’s performed in a caravan.

I have to admit I was unsure about the idea of caravan theatre – there is something very un-British about sharing an intimate space with eight other people (the caravan can accommodate an audience of eight plus one performer). However, although the caravan is cosy, it doesn’t feel as if your personal space is being invaded, and the caravan is less crowded than your average commuter train to London. At forty minutes, Mobile is also shorter than your average commute.

It has to be said, that this is a caravan like no other – it’s one in which the kettle and the microwave talk (complete with self-censorship of bad language in the latter case) and the walls can be covered with 1970’s wallpaper one moment, and the solar system the next. The production also used recorded interviews with people from Kent and the North-East of England.

If you’re wondering about this geographical disparateness, Mobile was co-commissioned by the Marlowe Theatre in Canterbury and Live Theatre in Newcastle. It’s a poignant mix for me – I work at The Marlowe Theatre, but I grew up in Newcastle, so I was listening to the kind if voices I hear around me now, interspersed with the accents I grew up with, like ghosts of my past. The unusual intimacy of the setting produced another strange moment for me – in a discussion about class, and how we decide what class we’re part of, the performer turned towards me and asked. “What if you grew up in a council house, but you went to Oxford?” Well, I didn’t quite grow up in a council house, but both of my parents did, and I – the first person in my family to go to university – went to Oxford.

Where do you come from?

The Paper Birds: http://www.thepaperbirds.com/