The Paper Birds to Present BROKE at Greenwich Theatre

One hundred and fifty people on low incomes will be able to see a show at Greenwich Theatre in the New Year with tickets bought for them by the theatre.

The show is Broke by the multi-award-winning theatre company The Paper Birds, which uses verbatim accounts from people struggling to make ends meet and shows how individual debt fits within the bigger picture of national debt.

"It's not quite as heavy as it sounds," says artistic director Jemma McDowell, who is also in the cast of three. "It's lots of fun, very visual and physical. It's about our individual experiences of money, how to budget, but it's also about our upbringings and what we were taught about money when we were younger."

The Paper Birds, the latest company to join Greenwich Theatre as associates and having just finished a tour with their award-winning show Thirsty, is based in Leeds and most of their verbatim reports come from West Yorkshire.

"We went to foodbanks and the Salvation Army, talking to people from different communities about money and their difficulties," said Jemma. "The show is about them and particularly one single mother, but we're also talking about the national debt and how the monetary system works.

"At the heart of it is a really meaty subject, the debt of the nation and how people living in it can't afford to keep up with their hobbies and interests and in some cases feed their children."

Broke is the first show in a trilogy on class that The Paper Birds intend to develop over the next few years. "It seems to us that the poor, as well as being poor, are demonized as being lazy, which is really something we wanted to talk about," said Jemma. "It's incredibly difficult for some people just to live from day to day. We were also very interested in how the monetary system works in the run up to the general election.

"What we want to do is open up the conversation about class, which will be developed in the second and third parts of the trilogy. Overall it will relate wealth to class. Some people will agree with the points we're making and others will disagree. We're not trying to attack anyone, we're trying to open the discussion because we think it's a really important one to have."

The Paper Birds' composer Shane Durrant has a big role in the show this time. "Shane told us about his upbringing and came up with lots of interesting accounts from when he was growing up, especially how his mum tried to cope."

James Haddrell, artistic and executive director of Greenwich Theatre, said: "We programmed the show for just after Christmas and know that this can be one of the toughest times of the year for some people, so we will be buying tickets for 150 people in receipt of government benefits on a first come first served basis. In each case we will just ask for a donation to the theatre of £3.

"This is the second show The Paper Birds have brought to us, the first was Thirsty. They're an incredibly talented young company from Leeds. For Broke we partnered up with West Yorkshire Playhouse and commissioned the show. We don't often do that but were so confident about the quality of the work that we gave them completely free rein on the subject matter.

"It's very moving yet very funny. It's not a dry documentary on stage. The Paper Birds have found a way to turn a series of interviews, word for word, into a brilliant piece of theatre. We're proud of the work and want as many people as possible to see it."

*THE offer is only available by calling the box office on 020 8858 7755 or calling into the theatre. If booking by phone, the theatre will need to see proof of concession status when tickets are picked up.

BROKE - Thurs, Jan 22- Sat, Jan 24, 8pm. Tickets £16, concessions £11 (both including £1 booking fee).

*THE Paper Birds run educational workshops as they tour. Anyone interested can contact them through their website, www.thepaperbirds.com.



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