Tighten Our Belts at Brighton Dome

Brighton Dome to premiere new theatre show about the cost of austerity in the city


From rising homelessness to the increasing reliance of residents on food banks, a new show from a recently formed local company Brighton People’s Theatre, Tighten Our Belts, takes as its subject the significant cost of austerity for people living and working in the city.

Previewing at Brighton Dome on Sat 26 November, before touring through 2017, Tighten Our Belts is the inaugural show from Brighton People’s Theatre, a diverse group of non-professional performers who have created this original performance in collaboration with professional theatre-makers.

Theatre-maker Naomi Alexander, who set up Brighton People’s Theatre, describes the rationale behind it: “The philosophy of the company is a belief in, as Joan Littlewood put it, ‘the genius in everyone’. We believe that everyone is creative but that not everyone has opportunities to enable them to realise what they might be capable of. We want artists to collaborate long term with people who might like the idea of being in a show but have never tried it.”

When it came to choosing a subject for their first show, Alexander was struck by the fact that despite living in a city with undoubted wealth and privilege, Brighton has 15 food banks operating across the city. She says: “People are suffering, right here, right now, all around us. You can’t fail to notice the increase in homeless people on our streets in recent years, but what you don’t see are the struggles that people are going through behind closed doors. People having to choose between putting the heating on or feeding their family. People feeling that somehow they have done something wrong, or that they somehow deserve this. People with no sense of hope for the future. People feeling a loss of dignity. Is this the society we want to live in? I know it isn’t for me.”

Honest, powerful and tender, Tighten Our Belts is the result of a year-long process of devising and developing, working in partnership with Brighton Dome and the Brighton Unemployed Centre Families Project (BUCFP) to recruit performers and ensure that the storytelling is as authentic as possible. The performers were given free access to shows at Brighton Dome for inspiration, created fictional characters and infused the stories with the daily struggles that are going on for people across the city. Alexander also invited artists such as leading contemporary dance choreographer Gary Clarke and choir leader, choral activist and composer Kirsty Martin to elicit ideas and work with the group to shape and refine it, along with dramaturg Lou Cope to ensure it works as a piece of theatre and takes the audience on a journey.

The People’s Theatre performed some material from Tighten Our Belts at a work in progress sharing at Brighton Dome in February 2016 where it was met with an emotional audience response, prompting comments such as ‘Moving, enraging, inspiring’ and 'The most powerful drama I have seen in years. Emotionally hard, tears in my eyes, because this subject is so relevant.'

This month’s performance is a preview before the show goes on tour in 2017 and is open to the public on a pay what you decide basis. Tickets can be booked in advance from Brighton Dome Ticket Office. For more information click here.

To read an extended interview with Naomi Alexander, Director of Brighton People’s Theatre, click here.