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Upstart plant seeds of success with Gardening Leave at The Union

Preview by Jack Foley

NEW writing theatre company, Upstart, are delighted to announce that Gardening Leave, by Joanna Pinto, will be performed at The Union Theatre in Southwark from July 5 to 9, 2005.

Joanna has attracted increasing recognition and exposure in London since having been placed on Young Writer programmes at both the prestigious Royal Court and Soho theatres, and Gardening Leave is the first professional production of her work.

Tom Mansfield, Director, commented: "What excites me about Jo’s play is that it brings together two people who have been damaged by the lives that they’ve lived.

"Unlike a lot of new plays that are around it argues that compassion, friendship, and tolerance are possible in an increasingly divided world.

"It’s particularly topical right now because it deals with a failed asylum seeker- and at the moment our media seem to be intent on de-humanising these people and robbing them of any kind of human dignity.

"I think it’s very important to make the point that ultimately these people are victims of circumstance. The subject lends itself to drama because drama never works when trying to portray people as villains or heroes."

The play picks up as Henry (Robert Lockhart ) is signed off from his high-powered City job as a result of inexplicable depression.

Finding solace in creating a roof garden at his mother's house in the East End of London, he is then interviewed by Maryam (played by Helen Johns, pictured), a young Iranian woman, working for the local paper.

In Maryam, Henry finally finds someone he can let into his world, setting the scene for an unusual friendship with unexpected consequences.

Upstart exists to promote new plays which challenge, provoke and entertain their audience, which promote discussion and argument, and which stand as a challenge to more simplistic ways of viewing the world.

In 2005, they are producing three productions of new plays by Joanna Pinto, Ethan Lipton and Steven Lally, as well as continuing their ongoing writer development work.

In addition, their Brief Chronicles season of rehearsed readings, taking place at a variety of venues around London, allows new writers to test their work through an immediate and challenging encounter with a group of actors, a director, and an audience.

Writers they have previously helped to develop include Jack Thorne, currently under commission to the Bush Theatre, Jennifer Tuckett, winner of the International Student Playscript Competition and a winner of the International Playwriting Festival, and Heather Taylor, a winner of the International Playwriting Festival.

With Gardening Leave opening in July, and another production, Meat, by Dramalogue Award winning Ethan Lipton, enjoying a three week run at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in August, Upstart are keen to use this opportunity to develop relationships with businesses who they can work with and promote either on a one-off or long term basis.

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