Blog: Evie Manning

Director-producer Evie Manning on Common Wealth's new play about TTIP

Hero image

The Deal Versus the People by Common Wealth is a play staged in Bradford Council Chambers on 21-24 October in response to the TTIP negotiations. TTIP is the controversial trade deal between the EU and US that critics say gives too much power to big business. Common Wealth is an award winning political theatre company based in Bradford, making and touring work across the UK and internationally.

We made The Deal Versus the People because we wanted to challenge narratives. There are a lot of dominant narratives in our media – that working class people are stupid, that we’re apathetic, that we’re content with watching TV and not talking about the world around us, that people don’t vote because they don’t know what’s going on, don’t get it. I would say the opposite – people don’t vote because they know exactly what’s going on.

Everyone I speak to, from all backgrounds, knows exactly what’s going on. We all know there’s a massive growing gap between the rich and the poor, we all know there’s a concentration of wealth amongst the super rich and because of this a concentration of power. We’re not stupid. But what do we do when we know? When we feel so ignored and unrepresented so much of the time? As Asad Rehman from Friends of the Earth, who we met in our research stage said: “The biggest achievement of the Tories is to make us feel like we can’t change anything.”

“We’re all feeling angry, we’re all feeling sad, we’re all feeling like we want to be together.”

Common Wealth feels if we are to change anything then we have to change the narratives. And if our dominant media is so inaccessible, so patronising and full of shit then we will make theatre that brings us together and says we’re all feeling this. We’re all feeling angry, we’re all feeling sad, we’re all feeling like we want to be together.

We’re a very emotional theatre company and the journey through rehearsals – from day one when we had no script to today when we have something that means something to everyone in our rehearsal room – has been very emotional. And we’re making a play about politics – which is usually dry and hard to talk about, but it affects our lives, it affects our children, it affects our future. So of course we’re feeling and it’s emotional – we’re not going to apologise for this.

We’re in Bradford Council Chambers sitting in the chairs where the councillors usually sit and we’re charging it with up with people, with feeling. We’re not trying to act like politicians. Of course, politicians are just people but there’s a certain training ground (again perpetuated in our media) that to be taken seriously we need to keep it together, to not be emotional. We’re saying TTIP and neoliberalism will affect our lives, we know who it will benefit and who it will forget.

We don’t want to be ignored anymore and told we’re stupid and we don’t care. So we’re taking action, and, OK, we might not change the world but TTIP hasn’t happened yet and collectively we can still make our voices heard against it). We can change the narratives, we can speak and be heard and we can come together. Theatre is for imagining possibilities and with The Deal Versus the People we’re imagining a new kind of politics, a new way of representing ourselves, a new way of saying we’re not stupid, and a new way of saying look at how much potential each and everyone one of us has.

To end on a quote from the incredible Howard Zinn: “Where progress has been made, wherever any kind of injustice has been overturned, it’s been because people acted as citizens, and not as politicians. They didn’t just moan. They worked, they acted, they organised, they rioted if necessary to bring their situation to the attention of people in power. And that’s what we have to do today.

“Some people might say: ‘Well, what do you expect?’ And the answer is we expect a lot. People say: ‘What, are you a dreamer?’ And the answer is yes, we’re dreamers. We want it all.”

Main picture: Tyrrell Vanzie, Wahida Kosser, Fiona Broadfoot, Cain Connelly. Photo: Christopher Nunn. See more of Big Issue North’s TTIP coverage at

Interact: Responses to Blog: Evie Manning

Leave a reply

Your email address will not be published.