Blog: Tom Marshman

The Travelling Corporate Man and The Feckless Woman are just two of characters in the playwright's show King's Cross (Remix) that he says will also appeal outside the capital

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This month sees the return of my theatre show King’s Cross (Remix), with a tour that takes the show to cities outside London.

It’s important to me to reach audiences outside the capital and I feel that even though the show is based in King’s Cross, the stories are both universal and relatable in dealing with the beginnings of the HIV/Aids crisis.

Not only are they about the people that were personally affected but I also touch on the gentrification of King’s Cross, the erasing of its seedier and arguably more colourful past. Gentrification and the political disenfranchisement of people is not just a London problem but it is epidemic, spreading throughout UK cities, a sad reminder of the 1980s and evidence at how polarised, we as a nation have yet again become.

I’m often asked, why I wanted to make a theatre show about King’s Cross in the 1980s. The song King’s Cross by the Pet Shop Boys was a great inspiration and the following quote from an interview Neil Tennant from Pet Shop Boys did confirmed my decision: “King’s Cross is the station you come to when you come down to London looking for opportunity from many northern cities and there’s lots of crime around King’s Cross – prostitution, drug addicts, and lot of tramps come up to you there.

“I just thought that was a metaphor for Britain – people arriving at this place, waiting for an opportunity that doesn’t happen, waiting for the dole queue or some documentation for the NHS. It’s about hopes being dashed.”

It feels important that a pop song was written about this. Pop songs don’t seem to have this kind of depth of thought these days! In the show I don’t use the Pet Shop Boys version but the Tracey Thorn one, which feels more like a hymn to a bygone time, which people have such a curiosity for and connection with.

The show was devised through a series of tea parties and interviews with people who lived, worked and partied in the King’s Cross area during the 1980s. Once interviews were complete, I transcribed the text, mixing the stories together to create a script, using anecdotes, adding movement and context to create layered textures. The people interviewed have pseudonyms so that the audience recognises them almost like friends, and I return, again and again, referencing their stories, throughout the show.

There are Mrs Bridges, The Travelling Corporate Man, The Feckless Woman, to name but a few. They recount heady nights at the Bell, the local pub, and then there’s a description of the first Gay Switchboard office, with its slanted floors, ill-fitting windows and just three telephones. One character mentions that he used to call up and not say anything, another remembers answering calls when no one would speak. It makes me wonder if they were (not) speaking to each other and are reunited on stage in King’s Cross (Remix).

Kings Cross (Remix) is at the Old Joint Stock Theatre, Birmingham, 10 Nov and Live Art Bistro, Leeds, 11 Nov. Photo of Tom Marshman: Paul Samuel White

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