Writer Imogen Usherwood discusses her upcoming play, Meeting Point, the first production to be performed after the Assembly Rooms Theatre’s re-opening.
“And he’s so, so nice, and doesn’t deserve you, or any of this – but that’s a hard thing to accept because you actually really like him.”
Sadie is cynical, grieving and a compulsive liar. Matt is polite, into poetry, and still terrified of relationships. They meet on Tinder, and agree to go on a date. And a few more. There’s something they’re not telling each other, and one day Matt learns something that makes him question their entire relationship. Meeting Point is about love, loss and lemon drizzle cake, a play about navigating relationships in the digital age and the things that go unsaid.
A few months ago, I wrote a different version of this piece for Meeting Point’s appearance at the Durham Drama Festival. In it, I used most of my original ideas for a writer’s note: the way I was introduced to Louis MacNeice’s poem, ‘Meeting Point’, during A-Level English, and how I started thinking more and more about its characters. I won’t go into all that again (but do go and read the poem – it’s excellent). In that writer’s note, I addressed the fact that February’s production was entirely online. Instead of the live Assembly Rooms production I had envisaged, we were confined to a YouTube screen and a ten-minute preview filmed entirely remotely. ‘I’d wanted,’ I wrote, ‘to explore how to we can stage digital spaces in an analogue world, but that production is a whole vaccination programme away. Instead, we’ll begin with something more lockdown-friendly.’
You can read Imogen Usherwood's first writer's note, for DDF 2021, here:
Well, our age group hasn’t been vaccinated just yet, but, to my absolute delight, we are back in a theatre. Working with a cast in-person, not to mention the last two days working in the Assembly Rooms Theatre, has been a complete pleasure. It’s always a fascinating process to put my own writing on its feet, and I can’t think of a better place to do it than in this gorgeous little theatre, with its impressive technical capacity. Meeting Point is the story of Matt and Sadie, two twentysomethings navigating a world of online dating alongside their own personal histories. As well as their first couple of dates, we witness their phone calls, text messages, unfortunate interactions with strangers on Tinder, and even their frantic Google searches. In the early stages of relationships, so much goes unsaid or unseen, especially on our phones – the audience gets access to the inner lives and thoughts of Sadie and Matt, most of which they aren’t sharing with each other.
Of course, the pandemic has changed how we interact with technology, and for the last year, the online has become the primary way we’ve communicated with the rest of the world. I started writing Meeting Point in April 2020, when our lives radically shifted from large groups and events to texts, zooms and emails. There’s a kind of paradox in attempting to recreate the digital world when we’ve finally managed to escape it and start seeing each other again, but with a bit of creative lighting (and some very willing actors), the result is well worth a watch.
We’ve been keeping our distance in the theatre, but it’s been a complete pleasure to spend time with this cast and crew in person. Hatty Tagart and Tom Cain have brought Matt and Sadie from the screen to the stage with ease, building up such a believable relationship despite never having met in person before until we began rehearsing last month. Catherine Turner and Archie Collins are only in their first year at Durham, but the energy, spirit and creativity they’ve brought to their ensemble roles are admirable, and I have no doubt they’ll thrive in future DST productions. Working with Hugo Millard as co-directors has been wonderful, and I’m so pleased we share the same dark sense of humour and an enthusiasm for yellow costumes. I’m indebted to our one-woman producing machine Sol Noya, who has organised so much for us and supported all my little whims with enthusiasm, including the fact that we need not one but two different types of cake on stage (a crucial plot point? Perhaps). We’re all immensely grateful to Anna Bodrenkova and James Goodall as the technical team, who have dealt patiently with all our specific requests, as well as organising 46 lighting cues for a show that lasts less than an hour. Meeting Point wouldn’t work without tech, and they have both been marvellous.
I’m not sure I ever actually thought we’d get back to live theatre. During the depths of the winter lockdown it was difficult to see anything beyond staying in our homes forever, let alone that Meeting Point would mark the Assembly Rooms’ reopening to the public. It’s a bizarre upside of the pandemic that we can have the best of both worlds now, as the show is also being livestreamed for those who can’t attend in Durham. As you’re watching, I hope you enjoy your first trip to the theatre as much as we’ve enjoyed preparing our first live performance.
By Imogen Usherwood.
‘Meeting Point’ will be performed at the Assembly Rooms Theatre at 7.00pm and 9.00pm on 6th June 2021.