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Billy Bragg Feels Pressure with First Theatre Show

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Billy Bragg and his band will appear at the Wellcome Collection from 19 April to 12 May 2010 in Pressure Drop, a ‘part play, part gig, part installation’ with original music and songs by Bragg. It marks the museum’s first-ever major theatrical production and Bragg’s theatrical debut.

The promenade drama was written by author and director Mick Gordon and is directed by Christopher Haydon. Gordon, who received the Critics’ Circle Award for Most Promising Newcomer in 1998 while artistic director of the Gate, approached Bragg after reading the legendary singer’s book The Progressive Patriot and becoming fascinated by his exploration of what it means to be English.

The play tells the story of three generations of a white Working-class family living on the edge of London, charting their attempts to define their individual and family identities in the context of a rapidly evolving social landscape.

Joining Bragg and his band on stage, the accomplished company of actors will comprise June Watson, Michael Gould, Justin Salinger, Pip Donaghy, David Kennedy, Susan Vidler and Shea Davis.

Pressure Drop is presented by Gordon’s company, On Theatre, and forms part of the Wellcome Trust’s Identity Project, a nine-month season of activities focused on the topic of human identity which includes performances, films, artworks, exhibitions and discussion events taking place across the UK. The play follows the Wellcome Collection’s current exhibition, Identity: Eight rooms, nine lives, which has been running since 26 November 2009.

Bragg has commented that he has “never done anything like this before; mixing songs with theatre is a totally new experience for me. Given that music makes a significant contribution to many people's sense of who they are, I am very excited to be working with On Theatre and Wellcome Collection as part of the Identity Project”.

Clare Matterson, director of medicine, society and history at the Wellcome Trust, has added that “Mick Gordon and Billy Bragg raise topical questions about human identity in contemporary Britain. Pressure Drop is a thought-provoking production. It will undoubtedly be a highlight of The Identity Project and a milestone for Wellcome Collection as its first major theatrical production”.

Although not explicitly political in its intentions, Pressure Drop adds another voice to the current theatrical debate on white working-class identity and the rise of nationalism. Recent and current plays exploring this issue include Philip Ridley’s Moonfleece, which is touring the UK until 17 April and Anders Lustgarten’s A Day at the Racists, running at the Finborough until 27 March.

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