So Cassie and Corey is very near to going in front of Radio 4 Commissioners. I have been there before!
However this time, I am more hopeful. It is in house. They won't put up ideas that they don't have at least a little bit of confidence in. They asked me to write some background to the project. A little provenance.
'Cassie and Corey' was developed between Jan-April 2016 as part of a quartet of plays by emerging writers at Theatre 503 in South London. The brief was simple. Each writer had 30 minutes to explore the borough and to find out what was going on NOW. What were the questions running through Wandsworth's mind in 2016? One writer was assigned to the local police service, one to the local disability centre, another to a centre fighting poverty and helping immigrants. These explorations came back together in the form of a two-hour show that was aimed at the giving stories back to the community.
Cassie and Corey came from a series of conversations held with Deborah Bowman the Head of Ethics at St Georges' Hospital (She has been involved with numerous Radio 4 projects). We tried to triangulate the things that kept her awake at night and combine those with the things that kept me awake at night. She was interested in the ethical limits of care, and the moral judgements people make when they feel that someone is 'undeserving' of treatment. I was interested medicine around identity, so eating disorders and also plastic surgery. It soon transpired that St Georges is one of the only places in the world where they perform bariatric surgery on minors. In short, gastric bands for kids. This led to interviews with the doctors in charge of the eating disorder clinics at St Georges. The story you have read comes from real life examples of the struggles young people have with food. We fixed the story an obese boy preparing for surgery, who is too scared to go through with his operation.
Food is the major theme of the play, a subject so close to us yet so difficult to see clearly because of that, like a book held too close to our eyes. We all have a relationship with food it is a hidden frontline between ourselves and society. It is a subject we have no choice but to engage with. It really is about NOW. 1/3 of all UK citizens people are now obese. Yet we still mock people who are fat.
The story is a picaresque one, where slightly low characters go on a journey and have a series of adventures; where a satiric eye is placed back onto our society. It uses comedy as a tool to dissect a difficult subject because sometimes comedy has a sharper scalpel than anything else. This is especially true if the characters are based in truth. Jason Ekotie Eboh, the most obviously comic character, was based on conversations held with Wandsworth food bank. Places of real shame for the people who go; places where it has not been unknown for the Daily Mail to send reporters to harangue people leaving for lighting up a cigarettes on their way home with their shopping.
So whilst Cassie and Corey is strongly about society's relationship with its nourishments, it is told through experiences of real people. My own permission for telling the story comes from my own relationship with food, which sometimes has been a struggle. The play is based on sound medical facts and indeed, the play went down so well it was mooted as a potential teaching tool at St George's. It certainly formed part of the ongoing CPD of the chief consultant of bariatric surgery, Simon Chapman - the emminent Doctor S referred to by both Cassie and Corey.