Acclaimed playwright and University of Exeter experts to collaborate on new production exploring LGBTQ+ loneliness

The production will explore how LGBTQ+ communities have experienced loneliness and isolation in the past and present, including during the coronavirus pandemic.

An acclaimed playwright will collaborate with University of Exeter experts on a new production exploring how LGBTQ+ communities have experienced loneliness and isolation in the past and present, including during the coronavirus pandemic.

Natalie McGrath will work with researchers at the Wellcome Centre for Cultures and Environments of Health and Exeter’s Northcott Theatre to create the new piece of work. It will explore the loss of hard won social and emotional spaces which LGBTQ+ people have created to share with one another, and think about experiences of lockdown as part of a far longer story.

The project was conceived by Natalie, in partnership with Fred Cooper and Charlotte Jones, research fellows at the Wellcome Centre for Cultures and Environments of Health. Dr Cooper is a historian of medicine with particular interests in loneliness, estrangement, and solitude. Dr Jones is a sociologist of gender, sexuality, disability and health.

Natalie, who is also a poet, performer, producer of arts and heritage projects, and Co-Director of Dreadnought South West who curate the Rebellious Sounds Archive, said: “LGBTQ+ stories have historically been erased or silenced due to hatred, ignorance and prejudice, whilst structural legislation and lack of rights have caused harm to many lives. This opportunity to explore some of the pivotal moments in LGBTQ+ history through the lens of loneliness will enable an exciting new play to emerge for an ensemble of LGBTQ+ performers in the future life of the project.”

Dr Cooper said: “A significant aspect of what we want to do is to push back against ways of working which create artificial hierarchies between university academics and the people they collaborate with. Natalie is not here to ‘translate’ our research into something more accessible, she is here to determine an agenda, explore the questions that she knows are vital, and participate in a meaningful process of exchange which will alter and enrich our practice as academics.

“Natalie began the project with a clear idea of the direction she wanted our work together to take, and a keen sense of the historical and structural harms which are embedded in LGBTQ+ experiences of loneliness. We’re delighted to be working with such an accomplished and talented artist.”

Daniel Buckroyd, Artistic Director and Chief Executive of Exeter Northcott Theatre, said: “Artists such as Natalie have an extraordinary ability to pose questions, stretch our imaginations and create a space for considering new possibilities.

“Through projects such as this and the Northcott Futures programme which supports local theatre-makers, the Northcott aims to make meaningful exchanges between artists, audiences and practitioners across a number of disciplines and lived experiences. We’re delighted to take this project forward and excited to see how the play evolves.”

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