Originally written for The Stage.
Not many directors start their career with an ambitious site-specific project that generates headlines. Cressida Brown made an immediate impression 10 years ago with Home, a show set in one of the tower blocks of Leyton’s Beaumont Estate and based on the stories shared by its residents. It was, she suggests, an extraordinary fluke. “I didn’t even realise that I was a director until someone told me,” she remembers.
At the time, Brown was training as an actor at Central School of Speech and Drama. Wanting to do a site-specific version of an Edward Bond play during her Christmas holidays, she spoke to someone at the local council about available spaces and was pointed towards the Beaumont Estate – then in the process of being emptied ready for demolition.
“He said, ‘We have these three tower blocks and they’re being emptied’, and I said, ‘Great, can I go in there with a Bond play?’. He said, ‘We have enough violence on that estate, why don’t you interview the people who are leaving and create a play with their words?’. So actually it was somebody else’s idea that set me on the path for my whole life.”