by Jez Bond

Sarah Rutherford, our writer in residence, has been developing a play inspired by some of the stories of Finsbury Park residents. Under the project title ‘N4 Stories’, she has been working with a group of (predominantly) local actors, interviewing people from the N4 area over the past four months. The actors have then brought these real characters and stories to life inside the rehearsal room where they have been hot-seated by Sarah and put into groups in order to improvise scenes.

Sarah now writes from Turkey, on her second day of a research trip…

Today, in 35-degree heat, Murat (my guide) and I were driven 1.5 hours out of Izmir to the beautiful village of Sirince.  Here I was provided with a local guide who (with Murat as translator) introduced me to a number of women who run cafes and sell traditional handicrafts while their men work in the olive and fruit groves.

Despite the language barrier, we talked of many things.  Mother to mother, family became a recurring theme, as it is in my play.  We also discussed religion, as I continued my struggle to get my head round the complexity of Islam’s role in Turkish society.  In the cellar of a crumbling Greek Orthodox church, a Muslim was conducting wine tastings, with paintings of Jesus looking on.  ‘That’s just how it is in Turkey,’ Murat offered by way of explanation.

Lunch was delicate courgette flowers and vine leaves stuffed with rice, followed by manti – exquisitely tiny meat dumplings in a spicy, garlicky, yogurty sauce.  We ate on the terrace of a cafe located on the ground floor of a beautiful family house.  The owner was delighted when she found out what I was doing there.  ‘Theatre is something special, it has something more than TV or cinema,’ she said.  She used to go to the theatre every week when she lived in Ankara.  Writers, she said, are very emotionally expressive, and easy to like.  I guessed I had made a friend.

Back in Izmir, we visited the ancient ruined castle on top of Mount Pagus, with stunning views over the city.  Then a horse-drawn gypsy carriage to the sprawling and overcrowded Kemeralti market which sells everything from fish to socks, raisins to gold rings.  You don’t need a notebook for times like these; it’s just a question of absorbing the intangibles and drinking in the details.  Then who knows what will leap from my memory into the play?

[Written by Sarah Rutherford, Writer in Residence]

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