East End artist recruits the public for her experimental Barbican show

PUBLISHED: 13:09 07 April 2011 | UPDATED: 16:03 08 April 2011

Rajni Shah performing in Glorious

Rajni Shah performing in Glorious


An East End artist has recruited members of the public to perform in a festival - in an aim to create a more authentic dialogue between art and the issues facing Londoners.

Dalston-based Rajni Shah is well known for her experimental work but her latest show Glorious takes community participation to a new extreme.

The piece, which is part of the Barbican’s upcoming Spill festival, came about after Shah set up a stall just outside the City venue inviting people to write a letter to a stranger.

As unorthodox as the premise was, the stall attracted all sorts of young professionals, art enthusiasts and Londoners - some of whom lived on the Barbican’s doorstep but had never stepped inside it.

Shah went on to set up workshops to discuss themes like climate change, the financial crisis and the uncertainty the cuts bring.

She said: “The stall allowed us to meet a lot of people outside the theatre context – including many who would never reply to a call-out or go to shows.

“We’ve done stalls elsewhere and I thought people would be less friendly in London but I was very surprised.

“We asked them what feels important to them right now. They had something to say but had never been asked.

“It was about forming a cross-over between the venues, the audiences and the people we were meeting.”

Volunteers will perform their own monologues on stage but the show as a whole is a montage of music, visual performance and art.

The score is by the Guildhall School of Music and Drama and Shah herself performs sketches.

Her main aim, it seems, is to marry public sentiment in its rawest form with artistic performance and skill.

“Glorious is about what it means to be in this society,” Shah added.

“It’s about bringing together the multiplicity of voices and brokering conversations between the public and art venues.

“There are so many amazing people with interesting stories.”

Glorious is at the Silk Street Theatre from Tuesday (April 19) to 21 April.

The Spill festival programmed by Robert Pacitti, runs until April 24.

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