Events Walthamstow

New play set in Walthamstow tapas restaurant

The play is set in a tapas restaurant inspired by Orford Saloon Tapas Bar, writes Victoria Munro

Kerry Jackson (credit: Marc Brenner)
Kerry Jackson (credit: Marc Brenner)

A new play set in Walthamstow aims to humorously explore the friction between the area’s working and middle classes through the lens of romantic comedy.

Kerry Jackson opened at the National Theatre this month and follows its titular character, a working-class woman from Essex, as she struggles to make her tapas restaurant on the border of Walthamstow Village a success.

The play’s beating heart is her relationship with a middle-class widower named Stephen, one that is marked from beginning to end by their difficulty seeing eye to eye across the class divide.

Playwright April De Angelis, 62, said her play was inspired by Orford Saloon Tapas Bar – although the owners bear no resemblance to Kerry – and her exhaustion with plays about more palatable protagonists.

She told the Echo: “I grew up working class in a council flat with my mum, although I’m totally middle class now. I was the first person in my family to go to university and felt between two classes, not quite one or the other.

“That’s useful as a writer because you’re often in the position of being outside of something. My whole reason for writing is to try to raise questions about the things people aren’t questioning, to wake them up in an entertaining way.

“I don’t want to tell people what they already know. I was watching a play one day where the main character was a woman who was very liberal and appealing, the audience all accepted her values, and I just thought I was so tired of it.

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“What if instead you had a working-class woman who the audience quite liked but didn’t always agree with because she was a bit right-wing? So often women are good or a b***h, I hate that binary and wanted to explode it. There’s no totally good or totally bad person.”

April and her husband moved to Walthamstow in 2003 after visiting a friend who lived in the area. She added: “We’d never heard of Walthamstow but we thought it was amazing and decided to move, it was so gorgeous and seemed like a village in the countryside.

“Being near the Victoria line was life-changing and we really loved the market, the different communities and the little shops. It’s also the friendliest place I have ever lived.

“There was no tapas bar when I moved to Walthamstow. Something has really changed in the space of ten years, it’s become homogenised.

“Kerry aspires to be in the Village because it’s going up the food chain, she doesn’t want to be seen as working class. There’s so much behind class that is really hard to explain. Middle-class people have a lot of guilt and working-class people have a lot of shame.

“But the audience is not being told anything, they have to engage with all these different viewpoints and weigh them up. I think that’s healthy in our society, which is much more singular in its truths and doesn’t allow for a lot of nuance.

“My biggest fear is that it won’t be funny or believable because I have strayed into more uncertain territory for me.”

Read a review of Kerry Jackson in the next issue of the Echo, out on 1st January. Find out more and book tickets here.

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