Twenty-five of Southampton’s residents are coming together to perform in the community chorus as part of the world première of Howard Brenton’s new play The Shadow Factory which opens this week.
The community chorus, among others includes full-time students, psychotherapists and teachers ranging from ages 17 to 66 includes 12 members from Southampton itself with the remainder from other towns within Hampshire. In addition, 8 members of the chorus have personal experiences relating to the historic themes of the play with the youngest member’s grandfather having flown Spitfires during the Second World War.
The Shadow Factory, the inaugural production in Nuffield Southampton Theatres brand-new venue - NST City, focuses on the true and local story about the Woolston factory, that manufactured the Spitfire, which was bombed during World War Two. The people of Southampton came together to contribute significantly to the war effort by continuing to build constituent parts of the planes in make-shift ‘shadow’ factories across the city.
The local chorus forms an important and significant part of this production as well playing a key role in keeping community at the centre of everything the theatre does; particularly as the city centre venue prepares to open its doors.
Director of Nuffield Southampton Theatres Samuel Hodges said today, “This is a play about a community, a love song to Southampton. Howard has focused on two particular families in his play at opposite ends of the social spectrum, but we also wanted to zoom out of the action, to get a sense of the scale of the shadow factory operation, the degree to which it impacted the entirety of the city back in 1940. And so working with non-professional performers, made up of local teachers, dockers, social workers, and students, has been right at the heart of this project from its inception.
“The story is as much about that community now as it is about the community they are representing from nearly 70 years ago. And it has become about even more than them – stories, letters, audio clips have been pouring in from relatives of those involved in the real shadow factories – even a letter from Lord Beaverbrook’s niece in Canada. I programmed this because it was a story about a community coming together, which is a story we need to cling onto today. And the passion and work ethos of our community company, who have gone above and beyond their comfort zone throughout, has validated that decision.”