Features Essays Published 22 February 2011


Rajni Shah writes about putting together her new musical Glorious, the unknowns in completely re-imagining it for each locale, and how there is a more progressive instinct to be found in hard times, in opening-up rather than seeking to protect ourselves.
Rajni Shah

Ten days before our first performance of Glorious in Nottingham, I received an email from one of the people we had hoped might perform in the show saying he’s just found out he’s got a job interview in two weeks and won’t be able to work with us after all. It’s disappointing. It means we have to go out and meet another stranger – someone who frequents the Meadows sandwich bar where we’ve been holding letter-writing interventions, someone we met at the library’s after-school club, or someone to whom we gifted a daffodil in the precinct a few weeks ago. And these are the people whose stories will form the heart of Glorious – an exploration of how we might find hope at this moment in time in all its uncertainty and despair. But it’s also fantastic that he has a job interview, and that this has happened while we’ve been here. It feels important to look at the wider picture.

Looking at the wider picture, however, is counter-intuitive at the best of times, and never more so than during a recession. Our instincts during hard times encourage us to protect ourselves from a world that offers little comfort. The government has let us down, capitalism has let us down, and climate change means that even the seasons are letting us down – collapsing almost all the known rhythms of our modern world. But in order to pull through hard times, contrary to our instincts, I believe that we all have to give more: to be more generous, to support the things we care about, to pay a more delicate attention to each other.

So, perhaps surprisingly, I’m making a musical – a musical whose musicians will be local to each place where it’s performed, and whose songs are interspersed with monologues spoken by local residents from the place we’re performing. In order for Glorious to be a success, we need to not only create a beautiful show that speaks about the current landscape, but we need to engage with new communities and provide a home for their stories to be heard. We need to become gracious visitors in a city, to listen to its pulse. And then to build a show with the people who live there, a show that those people can own and feel inspired by as musicians, as performers, and as audience.


Rajni Shah is a contributor to Exeunt Magazine



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