Plays staged in back gardens to bring Dalston neighbours together

Sophie Jones preparing for her backyard theatre at Navarino Road in Dalston.

Sophie Jones preparing for her backyard theatre at Navarino Road in Dalston. - Credit: Vickie Flores

Reinventing a long history of travelling theatre troupes and bards, one Dalston women staged a free performance last Thursday (August 13), with plans for another tonight (Saturday) in her garden.

Sophie Jones, 25, of Navarino Road, has directed a series of plays, including a Shakespeare classic, in the hope of bringing her neighbours closer together.

Miss Jones said: “I am an actress myself and I always had the romantic image of bards that used to travel up and down the country. That, for me, is what I imagined acting would be like – travelling with a lute or guitar and telling stories. I wanted to bring back that tradition.”

Winning a small grant from the Prince’s Trust three weeks ago helped turn Miss Jones’ idea into a reality, and in that short time she has assembled a motley crew of actors and set builders.

She said: “Nobody had met each other before so it has all been really exciting. It’s so nice to watch people who don’t know each other from all different walks of life just getting on and focusing on the project. Everyone has been very committed and easy to work with.”

A condensed version of Romeo and Juliet, family play A pinch of Salt, and short play Storytelling will all be performed by the group.

Miss Jones has said the events will be like market research to help her put on better performances in the future.

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She said: “I’ve been advertising the event by knocking on people’s doors and inviting them down. I also have Hackney Council coming to have a look.

“I think with this kind of theatre it is very personal and direct, so that is how I have been approaching the audience. There is something nice about it being quite intimate.

“Because I’ve been doing it personally, door-to-door – especially in an area that has changed so much, – at every door I’ve been knocking on it’s a different face and a different life and to have them all in the garden will be really nice.

“Something I am really striving for is the idea that later on other people think theatre brings communities together and say: ‘perhaps we could do this in our neighbourhood’, or the idea that people will have a look and think this is something they would love to have in their garden or office.”

She added: “I hope it will spiral and people will want more, and I will be able to deliver that.”