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The Forensics of a Flat (and other stories) - Camden People’s Theatre

Preview by Lizzie Guilfoyle

THE world premiere production of The Forensics of a Flat (and other stories), written and performed by Francesca Millican-Slater, will visit Camden People’s Theatre (June 18 and 19, 2014) as part of a national tour.

The celebrated creator of Me, Myself and Miss Gibbs returns to tell stories of a flat she has fallen in love with; a doomed love affair documented in lyricism, power point, a touch of stand up and classic karaoke.

Like Daphne du Maurier’s obsessive attachment to Menabily, the house on which Manderly is based in Rebecca, Francesca Millican-Slater’s eulogistic work focuses on her suburban flat, which used to be the offices of a TV rental company.

The developers are moving in soon to erect something shiny, and the flat, its contents, community and the stories that will never make it to the history books will soon be lost. What fingerprints linger on the door handles? What skin cells lie dormant on the carpet? And what haunts the plumbing?

This is a story about loss, change, time, technology and the memories of a place that make it home: how a row of shops offers a microcosm of a community that could be in any suburb, in any city, but somehow isn’t.

By a close examination of this one row of shops, Francesca considers our changing high streets, old haunts and stores shut down because convenience is no longer local. She gently questions her own and our desire for nostalgia and the need to celebrate things that no longer exist.

Francesca Millican-Slater said: “I moved into the flat early 2012, no one else seemed to want it – you have to go through padlocked iron gates, down a poorly lit alley, up steep stairs to get to a room made of wood. I wanted to know what had made its walls wooden, the life it had before I made it mine.

“I started to investigate what it was before; the shop, the offices below, the road it sits on. Half-imagined conversations and actions that took place in the walls that I live. I started to think about ghosts of people past, the version of this place that still exists, how it was on Google Earth, or in books and documents and other people’s memories from years before.

“It made me think about home. About song lyrics that make a house a home. And then my landlord started holding karaoke parties in the empty shop downstairs and I thought about the things that have happened in this building and the things that might. In this area, this row of shops where wine is cheap and gossip free, where I get asked how I’m doing, my community, of sorts.

“So I sit in the wooden walls, drinking cheap wine, listening to ghosts and waiting for the building to be taken into the modern age.”

Francesca Millican-Slater started making her own performance work because her college in Watford forgot to send off her UCAS form and Dartington College of Arts was the only place that accepted her. Me, Myself and Miss Gibbs ran at Edinburgh Fringe in 2011 to high critical acclaim, and toured extensively throughout 2012 and 2013. Prior to that, she performed Instructions For Heartbreak (2010) a power point DIY presentation on how to break your own heart.

The Forensics of a Flat (and other stories) was created at the REP Foundry 2013 programme. Under the REP’s new artistic director, Roxana Silbert, the REP Foundry initiative aims to discover and promote the West Midlands’ most promising burgeoning talent with the group of six writers, six directors and six theatre makers receiving mentoring and professional support from staff at The REP.

As well as masterclasses with theatre professionals there will be an opportunity for the artists to present work in progress in front of an audience at monthly scratch performance nights.

Produced by Pippa Frith in association with Birmingham REP, The Forensics of a Flat (and other stories) has set design by Janet Vaughan. Artistic collaborators are Mem Morrison, Nick Walker and Jill Norman.

The Forensics of a Flat (and other stories) is suitable for ages 12+.

Tickets: £12, £10 concessions – available from the box office on 0207 419 4841 or online at www.cptheatre.co.uk/.

Time: 7:30pm.

Running Time: 60 minutes.

The tour will also visit Birmingham, Ipswich and Audlem, Crewe.