Pippa Frith & Birmingham Repertory Theatre Presents The Forensics of a Flat and Other Stories, 30-31 May
The celebrated creator of Me, Myself and Miss Gibbs Francesca Millican-Slater returns to tell stories of a flat she has fallen in love with. A doomed love affair documented in lyricism, power point, a touch of stand up and classic karaoke.
Like Daphne du Maurier's obsessive attachment to Menabily, the house on which Manderly is based in Rebecca, Francesca Millican-Slater's eulogistic work focuses on her Kings Heath flat, which used to be the offices of a TV rental company. The developers are moving in soon to erect something shiny, and the flat, its contents, community and the stories that will never make it to the history books will soon be lost. What fingerprints linger on the door handles? What skin cells lie dormant on the carpet? And what haunts the plumbing?
This is a story about loss, change, time, technology and the memories of a place that make it home: how a row of shops offers a microcosm of a community that could be in any suburb, in any city, but somehow isn't. By a close examination of this one row of shops, Francesca considers our changing high streets, old haunts and stores shut down because convenience is no longer local. She gently questions her own and our desire for nostalgia and the need to celebrate things that no longer exist.
Francesca Millican-Slater said: "I moved into the flat early 2012, no one else seemed to want it - you have to go through padlocked iron gates, down a poorly lit alley, up steep stairs to get to a room made of wood. I wanted to know what had made its walls wooden, the life it had before I made it mine.
"I started to investigate what it was before; the shop, the offices below, the road it sits on. Half-imagined conversations and actions that took place within the walls where I live. I started to think about ghosts of people past, the version of this place that still exists how it was on Google Earth, or in books and documents and other people's memories from years before. It made me think about home. About song lyrics that make a house a home.
"And then my landlord started holding karaoke parties in the empty shop downstairs and I thought about the things that have happened in this building and the things that might. In this area, this row of shops where wine is cheap and gossip free, where I get asked how I'm doing, my community, of sorts. So I sit in the wooden walls, drinking cheap wine, listening to ghosts and waiting for the building to be taken into the modern age."
Arguably one of the most exciting up-and-coming solo artists working in theatre today, Francesca Millican-Slater started making her own performance work because her college in Watford forgot to send off her UCAS form and Dartington College of Arts was the only place that accepted her. Me, Myself and Miss Gibbs ran at Edinburgh Fringe in 2011 to high critical acclaim, and toured extensively throughout 2012 and 2013. Prior to that, she performed Instructions For Heartbreak (2010) a power point DIY presentation on how to break your own heart.
The Forensics of a Flat (and other stories) was created in the REP Foundry 2013 programme. Under the REP's new artistic director, Roxana Silbert, the REP Foundry initiative aims to discover and promote the West Midlands' most promising burgeoning talent with the group of six writers, six directors and six theatre makers receiving mentoring and professional support from staff at The REP. As well as masterclasses with theatre professionals there are opportunities for the artists to present work in progress in front of an audience at monthly scratch performance nights.
Roxana Silbert, Artistic Director of Birmingham REP, said: "The REP has a legacy of launching some of the best actors, directors and writers in the country. This is only possible by giving emerging artists the support and space to develop which is what we do through REP Foundry. Francesca's new play, The Forensics of A Flat, is one of the first fully developed plays to have come out of the REP Foundry. What struck us about Francesca is her charisma as a performer and the originality of her ideas. We're thrilled to have been able to support her - she's certainly a talent to look out for."