1st Luv, written by Debris Stevenson (writer and star of the critically acclaimed Poet in Da Corner at the Royal Court) and directed by Ned Bennett (whose production of Equus for the English Touring Theatre and Theatre Royal Stratford East has just finished a run in the West End at Trafalgar Studios) will premiere at The Big House – The Big House’s Islington venue – from Wednesday 20 November.
The Big House opened their venue in Islington in October 2018, offering both a theatre space and a centre to help young care leavers. The company’s work offers training and workshops for young people to unleash their creativity and build confidence whilst participating in theatre. These members take part in weeks of workshops and rehearsals, eventually becoming the theatre company and producing a show.
This has now drawn Debris Stevenson to work with The Big House on her hotly anticipated second show 1st Luv, which tells the universal story of first love through poetry, music, theatre and movement in what will be The Big House’s second production at its new Islington premises. Stevenson’s unique talent and style last year saw her nominated for the 2018 Evening Standard’s Emerging Talent of the Year Award.
With music by Jammz, this production brings together an incredible team of artists with young performers for a show that represents the company’s ethos of making high-quality artistic work with a social impact. Director Ned Bennett had previously worked with The Big House on Brixton Rock before they had the space in Islington and returns to the company after his production of Equus hit the West End this summer.
Debris Stevenson said, “Writing for The Big House is a everything writing has ever meant to me – it’s 3D hybrid magic. On top of that Ned is pushing me in new ways and I have been given permission to learn into the magic realism within my work. For me, grime – my entry point to poetry and theatre – really demonstrated how real (and often grimy, gritty) life can hover above the ground. As an artist who set up a company from nothing at 20, teaching thousands of young people creative writing and performance as a life skill – working with Maggie is beautiful because she understands great art comes from community.”
Ned Bennett said: “This feels like such a massive, exciting chapter for The Big House, I’m excited to come back and make a show in their new space. The Big House have created an environment that is utterly empowering for its members. The way in which they support young people and push boundaries creatively is such a thrilling combination. There’s a universality to 1st Luv that’s being handled with Debris’ particular heightened and astonishing imagination. It’s 1st Luv through the lens of magic realism and technicolour. Her work has an incredible sense of humour and pathos to it.”
The venue’s first production Bullet Tongue received four and five stars across the board and became such a success that it returned for a second run, a phenomenal achievement for a brand-new London venue.
Maggie Norris, Artistic Director of The Big House, said: “1st LUV brings together Ned Bennett, Debris Stevenson and Jammz to create a brand new piece of work for The Big House that promises to be dazzlingly modern and joyful. Fifteen marginalised young people will take us on a journey that explores how the templates of love that we are given as children shape our lives. The play weaves music, movement and poetry into a theatrical event that will be both magical and heartbreakingly raw. The enthusiasm and excitement that this team brings to The Big House and their unique understanding of the young people that we work with is rare and hugely inspiring.”