A local drama group is blaming police cuts for the continuing undercurrent of violence on Croydon’s streets, which has seen the fatal stabbing of Chris Istead and, separately, a vicious attack on a leading cast member in the past fortnight.
The 8/8 riots-themed production of Shakespeare’s Macbeth by the Breakfast Cat Theatre was put in jeopardy when one of the lead actors was attacked by a gang outside East Croydon station last week, left with three broken ribs, a fractured bone in his foot, severely bruised and unable to walk.
The company had already lost its rehearsal room in The Ship at a critical stage, when the pub became a crime scene following Istead’s brutal murder on March 31.
So is this all the result of the curse of “the Scottish Play”? “Not really,” said a spokeswoman for the producers. “It’s just the reality of living in post-riots Croydon.”
Mitchell Laban, who was cast to play Donalbain at the Charles Cryer Theatre in Carshalton from April 18, was attacked by five young men last week. When he walked back into rehearsals this week, the cast was silenced by shock. A week before the show and a key character may have to do his scenes with a walking stick. Fight scenes will be re-choreographed, lines redistributed and all at the eleventh hour.
The rehearsal space at The Ship had been vital, since the company receives no grant aid to fund its productions, and there are few available suitable spaces in Croydon.
“It’s desperately sad to see that the violent side of Croydon which we’re depicting in this play is as much of a risk to us now as it was during the riots last year,” said director, Paul Grace.
As well as what the group calls “inexcusable” funding cuts for police in Croydon, they say that there are other ways Croydon Council is failing the people of Croydon.
Roberto Prestoni, who plays Macbeth, has also been attacked and robbed on his way home after rehearsal in Croydon. “After the riots, people put some ‘I Love Croydon’ post-its up in The Dragon, but there just doesn’t seem to be any real investment in community here.
“For example, Breakfast Cat has nowhere affordable to perform in Croydon whatsoever. We’re setting this production in Croydon, but performing in Carshalton because we can’t pay the fees to hire any theatre space in Croydon. The Charles Cryer is a brilliant theatre, but it’s mad that there is nothing like that in Croydon.
“If people could get more involved in their local community and create a local arts scene to be proud of, I believe that would have a massive impact on what Croydon is like as a place to live. ”
The local arts scene has suffered swingeing cuts since the 2010 local elections, with the loss of Croydon Clocktower, the Croydon festival and threats to youth drama group CYTO.
Now it seems that as well as receiving no funding, and no affordable performance or rehearsal space, groups like Breakfast Cat cannot even feel safe walking home after rehearsals.
- Macbeth is being staged at the Charles Cryer Theatre in Carshalton, April 18-21
- Inside Croydon: brought to you from the heart of the borough, free of charge, an independent voice standing for freedom of speech for the people of Croydon
- “There’s daggers in men’s smiles”: this Macbeth is a riot (insidecroydon.com)
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