Shirley Porter housing scandal drama heads to The Playground Theatre

In many ways the illegal decisions by Westminster Council, which resulted in Lady Porter being forced to pay the council £12.3 million, are now standard practice across LondonAnna Minton, Big Capital, 2017.

The Playground Theatre, on London’s Latimer Road, is to stage a rehearsed reading of Gregory Evans’ satire Shirleymander – the dramatisation of the Shirley Porter Westminster Council ‘homes for votes’ scandal of the 1980s – later this month, ahead of a full run.

The reading will star Tracy-Ann Oberman, Patrick Ryecart and Michael Simkins and will be a precursor to a fully-fledged production of the work next summer.

London 1986 – London is in the middle of a housing crisis. Homes stand empty while homelessness soars and close-knit communities are being destroyed for profit.

Tory councils are accused of ‘social cleansing’ as families are evicted and forced to move far away or into unsafe flats, while affordable homes are sold as investment properties.

Fast-forward 30 years.

Staged in newly opened The Playground Theatre, in the shadow of Grenfell Tower, Shirleymander tells the story of a scandal which rocked local government.

Westminster Council, under Porter’s controlling bullying, autocratic style, her boundless energy and vast wealth, was led it into a mire of paranoia, fear and skullduggery as it pursued, secret, illegal policies that destroyed communities, reputations, lives, hopes – and finally Porter herself.

Exploring the perennial themes of greed, ambition and the normalisation of corruption, Shirleymander is a shocking, funny and often times moving reminder of how it is the weakest who bear the brunt when institutional wrong-doing takes control.

First presented as a radio play in 2009, and inspired by BBC journalist Andrew Hosken’s book Nothing Like A Dame, Gregory Evans’ comedy drama will have its stage premiere at The Playground Theatre next May.

The production is timed to coincide with the first anniversary of The Grenfell Tower fire.

Director Anthony Biggs says: “As London’s new neighbourhood theatre, it’s vital we engage with our local community and tell stories that really matter to our audiences.

“When I first read this gripping play I was blown away by the obvious parallels with the recent events at Grenfell Tower, which stands just a few streets away from the theatre.

“Shirley Porter’s Westminster Council policies might be the stuff of nightmares, but it’s happening now, right under our noses.”

The rehearsed reading of Shirleymander takes place at The Playground Theatre on November 30. A full run of the production occurs May 22 – June 16, 2018.

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