Photo credit: FiveSix Photography
Coventry City of Culture Trust and the Royal Shakespeare Company are delighted to announce casting for their new co-production, Faith.
A group of twelve actors (many from Coventry and the West Midlands), will play multiple roles across four promenade performances taking place throughout the day on Saturday 11th September.
The plays are written by Chris O'Connell, (Theatre Absolute; Shop Front Theatre; Frantic Assembly; Cardboard Citizens; Paines Plough; BBC) and Chinonyerem Odimba (Artistic Director and Chief Executive of tiata fahodzi; Unknown Rivers – Hampstead Theatre Downstairs; My Best Friend Married A Warrior – BBC iPlayer; Black Love, Paines Plough), in collaboration with writers from the City Voices programme, including Wes Finch, Christine Foxon, Kim Hackleman, Alexandra Johnson, Josh Leach, Navkiran Mann, Adriana Mourelle, Jaspal Singh and Jack Tafaro.
The four plays tell the stories of Coventry families and friends and their very different relationships with faith and hope, through a series of journeys with the city as the stage. Each one will be performed twice to a live in-person audience in Coventry, and will also be livestreamed to an audience at home. Performances on the day will also encompass a movement piece from members of the Belgrade Theatre’s Young Company.
The cast includes Annice Boparai (J’Ouvert, Sonia Friedman Productions; Trojan Horse, Lung Theatre), Daniel J Carver (digital TV series, SEAVIEW; short film, I AM), Pushpinder Chani (London Confidential, JAR Pictures; The Brummie Iliad, BBC Radio 3), Sarah Cullum (The Little Prince, Fuel Theatre; V&V, Sprezzatura Productions), Jack Gardner (RENT and Mother Clap’s Molly House, Mountview), Darryl Hughes (Romeo and Juliet, Shangai International Festival; The Tempest, Heartbreak Productions), Katy Stephens (RSC Associate Artist; Histories Cycle(RSC); As You Like It (RSC/ Roundhouse/ New York ), Humera Syed (The Village, Stratford East; The Stranger, Netflix), Anand Toora (Punk Rock and A Doll’s House, The Royal Central School of Speech and Drama), Matthew Wait (Cool Water Murder, The Belgrade; Choke, Shop Front Theatre), Claire Wetherall (The Coat and The Assumption, Royal Conservatoire of Scotland) and Grace Wylde (Georgie The Knight and The Boy In The Dress, RSC).
Taking place over 24 hours in multiple locations, Faith invites audiences to immerse themselves in the diverse communities of Coventry – a proud interfaith city – through a combination of music, theatre, art installations, rituals discussion and dialogue. It draws inspiration from the medieval mystery plays performed in Coventry around 1392-3.
The show is directed by Erica Whyman, with Shoot Festival co-founder Jennifer Davis as Associate Director. Tickets will be FREE, and available for priority booking from Friday 20 August, followed by a general on-sale on Friday 27 August.
Faith has always been part of Coventry’s story, from its medieval monasteries and Mystery Plays, to welcoming refugees fleeing religious persecution through the years, such as the Huguenots who brought silk weaving with them to the city.
Yet how we - as world citizens - experience faith, both as individuals and as communities, manifests itself in different ways. Look beyond the spires of Coventry’s iconic Cathedral and you’ll uncover a rich and interconnected sacred architecture of Gurdwaras, Mosques, Temples and Churches of all denominations where Humanists, Quakers, Buddhists, Sikhs, Jews, Hindus, Muslims, Rosicrucians, Methodists, Catholics, Pagans and countless other faiths, and those of no faith at all, live side by side.
At its heart, Faith will explore what keeps each of us going in tough times, and how people of faith, and of non-religious world views, understand and celebrate the chapters and mysteries of our lives. As we begin to understand the effects of the pandemic, and to recover from our losses, it seems more important than ever to see each other fully, respect our differences, and find new ways to go forward.
Chris O’Connell presents The Messenger. Beginning on Stoney Stanton Road, audiences are introduced to Baani, who faces the imminent death of her mother. Tasked with getting a message to her father, she agrees to meet him at Pool Meadow bus station, but this is a journey she has never made before. Baani is resourceful and very good company but will anyone help her find her way?
The cast includes: Daniel J Carver, Pushpinder Chani, Katy Stephens, Humera Syed, Claire Wetherall and Grace Wylde.
Also written by Chris O’Connell is The Return. Taking place on the cathedral steps, two old friends meet after almost 40 years. Seeing both each other and the Coventry they love through very different eyes, the piece explores whether it is possible to betray a city, and if so, whether it can forgive you.
The cast includes: Sarah Cullum, Katy Stephens and Matthew Wait
Chinonyerem Odimba presents The Arrival, which follows a young Sikh couple as they try to find a new home. Audiences will be taken on a journey through the city centre in 1978, starting in Broadgate and culminating at the Belgrade Theatre. Taking in Lady Godiva, two-tone and the importance of a good ruby murray, The Arrival is set against a backdrop of racial violence but told with humour and resilience, asking us to question what the ingredients for a good life are.
The cast includes: Annice Boparai, Sarah Cullum, Jack Gardner, Darryl Hughes and Anand Toora
Also written by Chinonyerem Odimba is Generation 20, which follows the grandson of the couple in The Arrival, as he and his friends discover that someone they care about has gone missing. Audiences will be led on an odyssey around hidden corners of north Coventry, as they try to find him and come to terms with recent upheaval. Generation 20 is a spirited celebration of the imagination and humanity of young people.
The cast includes: Pushpinder Chani, Jack Gardner, Anand Toora, Claire Wetherall and Grace Wylde
The plays have been inspired by dialogue and research with community leaders from a wide range of faith groups and young people across the city, including the members of Coventry’s Sacred Space Initiative. Coventry’s Sacred Square Mile runs from the city centre into north Coventry and encompasses faith buildings from almost all of the major religions, as well as green and other sacred spaces that are used by people of all faiths and none.
As well as the four promenade performances, there are a huge variety of other events being delivered live in the city and online throughout the 24 hours than Faith spans.
Theatre designer Tom Piper, famed for his poppy memorial at the Tower of London, Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red, will create an evocative visual representation of the existing ties and connections between the different faith groups. Faith communities across Coventry will join together physically, with Coventry’s places of worship set to be tied together with Coventry blue ribbons - a nod to the city’s silk industry - creating a beautiful temporary tapestry through the city. Coventry-based composer Sayan Kent (Maggie May, Liverpool Royal Court, Calcutta Kosher, Kali Theatre) will compose an original score to accompany the whole project.
Laura Nyahuye will be collaborating with Tom to create a beautiful reflective installation in the cathedral ruins exploring the relationship between faith and mental health.
On Friday evening, an invited audience of faith and community leaders will come together in Swanswell Park to share food and engage in discussion about how faith shapes their lives. Audiences will be able to access resources online to host their own conversation about faith at home and cook dishes that have special meaning in different religions.
Saturday morning sees faith centres and spaces across Coventry opening their doors and welcoming in audiences, offering them a chance to experience their faith through ‘Open House’. This will be a chance for those who might not usually visit places of worship to spend time with someone’s faith (in whatever shape that might take) and to learn more about their beliefs, practices and work in the community. Whether through a performance of sacred music, a shared cup of tea, a chance to observe prayer, or simply the discovery of a space for quiet reflection, this event is sure to open hearts and minds. One highlight will be a video project with young people from three different faith based schools talking thoughtfully about what faith means in their lives and how it is changing across generations.
Faith culminates with a ceremony to come together and experience the power and multiple meanings of light. Audiences will be invited to gather at dusk in Millennium Square to light one of 500 flames to create a final tapestry of lights in the city centre and to take part in a unique pledge to walk forward together, in knowledge and in hope.
Faith encompasses hybrid live and digital events. For audiences unable to attend Faith in person, and for audiences who have attended, a selection of digital content will be available. Highlights include a cook-along event in the week leading up to the culinary experience, video content exploring the role of food in faith communities and interviews with the creative team and communities involved in the projects. All performances will also be live streamed with BSL and captioning, and will be available to watch after the event via coventry2021.co.uk.
Erica Whyman, Director of Faith, and Deputy Artistic Director of the Royal Shakespeare Company, said:
“Faith is a Coventry-wide invitation to celebrate this remarkable multi-faith city. Over the weekend of 10th and 11th September across the city and online, we will inspire conversations about what we each believe and what keeps us going in tough times. Chinonyerem Odimba and Chris O’Connell have written funny, insightful and moving plays about how faith really operates in our daily lives which will be performed with the city as our stage and our backdrop, leading to a powerful ceremony of light on Saturday evening in which everyone can take part.”
“As we come through one of the most testing times in our lifetimes, Faith is a moment to acknowledge our losses, see and respect our differences and celebrate our resilience as we find ways to go forward in hope. It has been made in close collaboration with representatives of the faith communities of Coventry, and it has been a privilege to witness close up the spirit of solidarity and optimism that continues to thrive in this city.”
Chenine Bhathena, Creative Director of Coventry, City of Culture, said:
“We are delighted to have developed this extraordinary collaboration between locally based creatives, representatives of the many faith communities of Coventry, City Voices and the Royal Shakespeare Company. We can’t wait for visitors to immerse themselves in the rich cultural heritage of Coventry, a proud interfaith city of peace and reconciliation.
“The arts have a unique power to strengthen connections, promoting understanding of our significant differences as global humans but also to recognising our similarities, as we all work together for peace, justice and healing in our world.
“With music, theatre, art installations, rituals, food and conversations, there really is something for everybody, and we invite audiences to open their hearts and minds to the diverse ways in which we as humans lead our lives and live by our beliefs.’’
- Created in collaboration with RSC and local community leaders and their faith groups
- Writers - Chris O’Connell, Chinonyerem Odimba and City Voices
- Director – Erica Whyman
- Designer – Tom Piper
- Composer - Sayan Kent
- Design Associate – Adrian Rees
- Costume Associate – Chloe Fundak
- Textile Artist - Laura Nyahuye
- Associate Director – Jennifer Davis
- Senior Producer – Jon Davis
- Producer - Susanna Roland
- Engagement Producer- Remi McKenzie
- Digital Producer – Katherine Jewkes
- Dramaturg – Becky Latham
- Sound Designer – Mike Beer
- Associate Sound Designer – Ian Bernard
- Director Facilitator – Frankie Robson
In person Programme
RIBBONS INSTALLATION - INSTALLATION
Saturday 11th September
A ribbon tapestry connecting Faith buildings across the city
Open House – COMMUNITY EVENT
Saturday 11th September - 10am - 4pm at various faith centres across the city
The Arrival by Chinonyerem Odimba - THEATRE
Saturday 11th September - 10:30am and 3:30pm
Meet at Broadgate, Coventry, CV1
Free but ticketed.
Generation 20 by Chinonyerem Odimba – THEATRE
Saturday 11th September - 12:30pm and 5:30pm
Meet at Millennium Place
Free but ticketed.
The Messenger by Chris O’Connell – THEATRE
Saturday 11th September – 10:30am and 3:30pm
Meet at Eagle Street, Coventry, CV1
Free but ticketed.
The Return by Chris O’Connell – THEATRE
Saturday 11th September - 12:30pm and 5:30pm
Meet at Coventry Cathedral
Free but ticketed.
Ceremony of Light – CEREMONY
Saturday 11th September – 7:45pm – 8:45pm
Free but ticketed.