Bragg has written new songs and music for the piece, which will premiere at the Wellcome Collection in central London, as its first-ever major performance arts production. It will begin performances April 19, prior to an official opening April 22, for a run of 20 nights only, through May 12.
It is being staged as part of the Wellcome Collection's Identity Project, a season of activities focused on the topic of human identity. Pressure Drop asks a central question: what makes me who I am? It explores the individual, familial, social and political reference points which make a person definable and recognizable to themselves and others. It will prompt the audience to consider which are the pressured groups in society today, as it presents three generations of a white, working-class English family struggling to define themselves both in relation to one another and within a changing social landscape. At the heart of the event lies a paradox. Our identities are continually in flux; but at the same time, we need a firm sense of rootedness, of belonging to something stable.
The production will be a promenade production, running 90 minutes. It is produced by On Theatre and the Wellcome Collection. It is directed by Christopher Haydon, designed by Tom Scutt, with lighting by Mark Howland, sound design by Mike Furness, sound for the band by Grant Showbiz. Bragg and his band will star; further casting is to be announced.
Bragg, who was born and grew up in Barking, Essex, is a singer-songwriter who was inspired by the punk rock explosion of the late '70s. His first hit in 1984 claimed that he didn't want to change the world and wasn't looking for a new England. He has spent the past 26 years proving that declaration to be wrong. His interest in issues of identity and belonging came to a head in 2006 with the publication of his first book, "The Progressive Patriot." His most recent collection of songs, "Mr Love & Justice," was released in 2008.
The collaboration between Gordon and Bragg came about when Gordon read "The Progressive Patriot" and became intrigued by Bragg's exploration on what it means to be English in contemporary Britain. In the book, Bragg reflects on his family and their history. He revisits the music that originally inspired him and challenges versions of patriotism proposed by the far right. In a press statement, Bragg has commented, "I have never done anything like this before, mixing songs with theatre is a totally new experience for me. Given that music makes a significant contribution to many people's sense of who they are, I am very excited to be working with On Theatre and the Wellcome Collection on their Identity Project."
Gordon adds, "Defining what makes us who we are is no easy task. It is a fluid preoccupation that dwells in us all. On Theatre's collaboration with Billy Bragg, marking the culmination of the Wellcome Collection's extraordinary Identity Project, is our contribution to the continuing debate." The Wellcome Collection is part of the Wellcome Trust, the largest charity in the U.K. Wellcome Collection opened to the public as a £30 million visitor destination in June 2007. Free to all, Wellcome Collection explores the connections between medicine, life and art in the past, present and future. The building comprises three galleries, a public events space, the Wellcome Library, a café, a bookshop, conference facilities and a members' club.
To book tickets, contact the box office on 0844 412 4318, or visit www.wellcomecollection.org/pressuredrop