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.

For the past three days Sarah has blogged from Turkey, where she is on a research trip…

My head is spinning.  Istanbul is an insane city.  For a start, what other city in the world is located on two continents?  With a sea smack bang in the middle?  It’s vast but also stiflingly overcrowded, and the chaos is bewildering even to a seasoned Londoner.

After the flight here from Izmir (still in the company of Murat, my indefatigable guide), we hit the ground running.  Today was mainly about the Asian side of the city, where many of the locals live.  We saw sights, we wandered the streets, but the food!  For lunch, the most delicious sis kebap I could ever hope to taste, from an unpromising little hut called Kilisli Kebap Bus, located on what felt like a traffic island – accompanied by ayran, a salty yogurt drink that’s definitely an acquired taste.  In the afternoon, the speciality of the ‘village’ of Kanlica: an extra-thick yogurt with a skin on top, its sharpness softened by a sprinkling of powdered sugar.  Combined with the location right on the water, the Bosphorus lapping next to our table and sea bass playing just below the surface, it made for a sublime moment.

For dinner, I met Esin Harvey, one of the actors who has contributed to the N4 Stories workshops and who at the moment is living and working in both London and Istanbul.  She guided me expertly through the perilous crowds and traffic to Litera, a rooftop bar and restaurant with a heartstopping view over the domes and minarets (complete with the soundtrack of the call to prayer) as the sun set and the buildings lit up.  It was a joy to chat with Esin about Turkey, Islam, theatre, parents, children, the big things and the trivia – and, again, to eat great Turkish food.  Esin, who also runs a theatre company, has brought a show to Istanbul in the past, and she suggested that we could do the same with the N4 Stories play.  There’s a thought.  Here in the City of the World’s Desire, anything seems possible.

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