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Brief Encounter with...Tim Roseman

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Tim Roseman is co-artistic director of Theatre503, the Battersea venue renowned for producing challenging and provocative new plays and championing emerging playwrights. Here he talks to WOS about the theatre's upcoming production, This Much is True, (27 October to 21 November), which he directs. The play, by Paul Unwin and Sarah Beck, uses verbatim material to explore the truth surrounding the Jean Charles de Menezes shooting at Stockwell Underground station in July 2005.

What is fearless about This Much is True?

It's bold, theatrical, innovative. It's addressing a moment where British society was fundamentally altered, where we realised fully that being at war has unpalatable and inexcusable consequences. We're asking the audience how we accept the changes to our world as a result of how we fight terror.

What drew you to this play?

I love its scope. We're not just dissecting the event, but also why we're still talking about it four years after Jean Charles de Menezes was killed. The people who have spoken to us - many for the very first time - include Jean's cousins, the former police head of counter-terrorism, the woman who blew the whistle on the cover-up, the legal teams, the Justice for Jean campaign - all these disparate and passionate voices. And we mix it with all-enveloping video to create something unlike anything else we've done at 503.

Hasn't this story already been told?

It has been told, and it needs to keep being told. Far too many people we have talked to say 'yes, well Jean Charles did jump the barriers at Stockwell', or 'but why did he run away from the police?' and these are simply false statements. But we're looking at why first impressions last, how misperceptions become fact and how society copes with these unanswered questions four years on.

Does verbatim theatre still have anything to say?

We struggled with the idea of doing a verbatim play about the shooting of Jean Charles de Menezes. There's already been a very good tribunal play, concerned with the exact chain of events. But the writers - Paul Unwin and Sarah Beck - and I felt that too much verbatim theatre is like cod liver oil: you won't like this, but it's good for you. We were only interested in using verbatim material if we could also create a thrilling and theatrical night out. The purists might disapprove, but we hope we won't be too worthy or earnest.

What do you expect audiences to take away from this play?

First and foremost, a cracking night out. We've one of the best teams we've ever had, including two Olivier winners, an Oscar nominee and a Bafta nominee, so the calibre of the talent is outstanding. And we want to delve into the complexities of a truly tragic set of circumstances and ask our audience to debate where we go form here.

What next for Theatre503?

We've recently selected the 503/5, five of the most talented unproduced playwrights in the country, selected from 200 entries, and we're working with them to create a brand new way making new plays as we launch their careers.


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