After an unpredictably challenging year, Leeds-based Interplay returns to live theatre with its first post-lockdown show. “This Land” tells the story of folk legend Woody Guthrie and his fight against social injustice in the 1930s. Reflected by the current events, his journey is a timeless tale that is now more relevant than ever.
This Land - The Story of Woody Guthrie
Widespread fear, rising poverty and a collapsing economy – history has a tendency to repeat itself. The social impact the Dust Bowl had, when a historic drought and a series of dust storms swept over the American prairies, bears a striking resemblance to the havoc caused by the current pandemic.
With “This Land – The Story of Woody Guthrie” Interplay uses the opportunity to reflect on the recent events - and to finally welcome people back at the theatre. “This is our big hello to audiences after a year of being limited in how we reach people. We’ve learned a lot about using outdoor spaces and working online with our communities but we can’t wait to get back to hosting live theatre back at the venue”, says Producer Tom Jordan.
“The show is the perfect way to bring people together again, I think it encapsulates the many different aspects of our lives over the past year, emotionally but also politically.”
Immersive worlds and intertwining music
It takes the audience back in time to relive the Dust Bowl era through the lens of one of the most influential American folk artists. Based on Guthrie’s autobiography “Bound for Glory” and featuring many of his original songs, this is a journey through his life - from the boom bust childhood in Oklahoma to the cold canyons of New York City.
Accompanied by a group of musicians, the show weaves together narrative and musical elements and proves that, even 90 years later, his chronicle hasn’t lost any of its pathos.
“The story of Woody Guthrie, and the time in which he grew up, is really relevant to today because a lot of the factors that were around in his life are around us now. There’s the growth of fascism, the lack of capital and there’s also the pandemic. When this huge dust bowl hit the south-central United States, communities were broken up. People couldn't breathe and they had to wear masks. This play mines the intersection of past and present and looks at a musician who wrote songs about the plight of the people”, says Steve Byrne, Artistic Director of Interplay Theatre.
“For him it was all about the connection to people. He didn't want to make money out of his songs. All he wanted to do was write them, and give the downtrodden a voice. It seems naive in these monetarised times but it’s a story that I want to tell because I think we’ve lost some of this modesty along the way”, he says.
Dates of performances
Thursday: 20 May / 27 May / 3 June - 7:30pm
Friday: 21 May / 28 May / 4 June - 7:30pm
Saturday: 22 May / 29 May / 5 June - 2:30pm & 7:30pm