It is widely known that many people whose homes were flooded had to live in caravans for many months while their houses were being dried and repaired. While caravans usually evoke a sense of holidays and summer trips, they turned out to be challenging for day-to-day living, in particular during the winter, due to very confined space, no insulation, unreliable plumbing and kitchen equipment, and various other constraints. Even a year after the 2007 floods in Gloucestershire, some families were still living in caravans.
During this time, East Anglia based theatre company Look Left Look Right developed a play based on interviews with victims of the 2007 floods. It was called ‘The Caravan’ and is set – suitably – inside a caravan. This does not mean that they re-created a caravan on stage – rather, a real caravan was used, as both the stage and the audience’s seating. Four actors and a maximum of eight spectators were crammed into the confined space of the caravan, rehearsing voices and emotions of those flooded and – more or less successfully – dealing with the aftermath.
Having won an award at the Edinburgh Festival in 2008, The Caravan performed in London and then on a tour throughout the country. Reviews of the show can be found in the Guardian (review and blog), the Birmingham Post, and the British Theatre Guide, among others. One of the places it visited was Tewkesbury, itself most severely affected by the 2007 flood.
Tewkesbury residents who told us about their visit to a performance of The Caravan all found it very stimulating. What resonates more with the experience of being forced to abandon one’s flooded home, than a re-enactment of other flood victim’s thoughts, worries and activities in a caravan?
The Caravan must have contributed immensely to raising awareness of the struggles of flood victims, and to keeping that awareness alive after the mass media attention has vanished. Perhaps theatre productions like this one provide a valuable help for developing flood memories and building community resilience to flooding in the future?