Hackney playwright bids to stage his socially-distanced play in Cally Park

Hackney playwright Mark Lindow has written Estimated Waiting Time

Hackney playwright Mark Lindow has written Estimated Waiting Time - Credit: Archant

Set in a housing estate playground, Mark Lindow’s Estimated Waiting Time is due to be performed free for local residents.

Holly Joyce plays Alyssa in Estimated Waiting Time which is set on the Pembury Estate

Holly Joyce plays Alyssa in Estimated Waiting Time which is set on the Pembury Estate - Credit: Archant

Hackney playwright Mark Lindow is raising funds to stage his play in Cally Park and inviting local residents to see it for free.

Estimated Waiting Time is set in the play area of a housing estate and celebrates how our basic need for human connection can form bonds in unlikely places.

Islington Council is supportive of their bid to stage the socially-distanced two-hander in Caledonian Park in August, and producers are now crowdfunding to make it happen, with the friends of the park acting as stewards.

Lindow said the play, which began at a scratch night at the Arcola Theatre followed by a rehearsed reading at The Pleasance, should resonate “after the isolation of lockdown”.

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“It got a really good response at The Pleasance and I was planning to put it on at this year’s Camden Fringe but because of the pandemic it’s in a park. It’s set in a playground so we realised we could do it outside. It’s about people from a working class background so it seemed a good way to get people to engage with live theatre and inspire them to write their own story.”

An operations manager for Homerton Hospital, managing admission times and outpatient appointments, Mark took inspiration from the privatisation of health and education services for his tale of middle-aged Alyssa, who meets teenager Lewis by chance when they are both looking to escape their home lives.

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Isolated and lonely, they form an unlikely friendship through their shared love of storytelling, cigarettes, and family frustration.

Alyssa is a teacher in her 40s, trapped caring her sick mother who is awaiting an operation. Lewis, “a bit gobby with an over-active imagination,” has been excluded from school and is “in limbo” waiting to turn 16 so he can continue his education.

While working at a different hospital, one of Mark’s patients lost their life when their care was outsourced to a private provider, he explains: “Because the NHS gets fined for every patient that breaches the government target it’s cheaper to outsource treatment to private hospitals, but private hospitals don’t have crash teams. So if a patient crashes on the operating table they have to get them to A&E - I wanted to highlight how the NHS is being privatised, so I wrote the play about Alyssa. Then I realised I’d missed a trick. The play is not about NHS funding and waiting times but about their relationship. Two people on an estate in Hackney separated and isolated, telling each other stories about their lives.”

Mark is the founder of new-writing platform Untold Stories and writes in his spare time - the play strikes a hopeful note when Alyssa encourages Lewis to find his voice.

Producer Lauren Reed hopes the open-air performances will give local residents a chance to enjoy inspiring theatre, and is in discussion with other boroughs and housing trusts to take the play elsewhere - including secondary schools.

“It’s a park surrounded by housing estates and we are targeting the very local community of the Market Estate. Hopefully it will be a nice evening to come and see some live theatre that is accessible and relevant, that they wouldn’t necessarily have access to. They can sit in one metre circles clearly marked in the audience space.”

She added that they are appealing for donations or help in kind to fund the practical costs of rehearsing and performing: “Fundraising is our biggest thing now. No-one has worked during lockdown so as individuals we have no cash.”

Mark, who lives on Hackney’s Pembury Estate, is passionate about “telling stories that aren’t being told”.

“Theatre is about being able to get your story out there. So if you live on a council estate in Islington and don’t think theatre is for you, and this inspires someone to tell their story then great. Encouraging people to write a play and get their voices heard is really empowering.”

Donate here www.gofundme.com/f/estimated-waiting-time

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