Press release

Wellcome Collection raises curtain on its first major theatrical production

Wellcome Collection is thrilled to announce the presentation of its first major performance arts production. ‘Pressure Drop’, starring the legendary singer-songwriter Billy Bragg and his band, is the latest play from On Theatre and will be taking place in Wellcome Collection’s largest gallery space.

This passionate drama from acclaimed writer and theatre director Mick Gordon, with new music and songs written by Billy Bragg, is directed by Christopher Haydon with a limited run, 19 April-12 May, 19.30 (excluding Sundays). Press night is 22 April 2010.

As part of the Wellcome Trust's Identity Project, an ambitious season of activities focused on the endlessly fascinating topic of human identity, 'Pressure Drop' at Wellcome Collection asks a central question: what makes me who I am? It explores the individual, familial, social and political reference points that make a person definable and recognisable to themselves and others.

Part play, part gig, part art installation, 'Pressure Drop' prompts the audience to consider which are the pressured groups in society today - an increasingly topical issue as the general election approaches.

It presents three generations of a white, working-class English family struggling to define themselves both in relation to one another and within a changing social landscape. At the heart of the event lies a paradox. Our identities are continually in flux; but at the same time, we need a firm sense of rootedness, of belonging to something stable.

The collaboration between Mick Gordon and Billy Bragg came about when Gordon read 'The Progressive Patriot' by Bragg and became intrigued by the singer-songwriter's exploration of what it means to be English in contemporary Britain. In the book, Bragg reflects on his family and their history. He revisits the music that originally inspired him and challenges versions of patriotism proposed by the far right.

Billy Bragg said: "I have never done anything like this before; mixing songs with theatre is a totally new experience for me. Given that music makes a significant contribution to many people's sense of who they are, I am very excited to be working with On Theatre and Wellcome Collection as part of The Identity Project."

Mick Gordon commented: "Defining what makes us who we are is no easy task. It is a fluid preoccupation that dwells in us all. On Theatre's collaboration with Billy Bragg, marking the culmination of Wellcome Collection's extraordinary 'Identity' exhibition, is our contribution to the continuing debate."

Clare Matterson, Director of Medicine, Society and History at the Wellcome Trust, added: "In 'Pressure Drop', Mick Gordon and Billy Bragg raise topical questions about human identity in contemporary Britain. The subject of Identity is also tackled by the Wellcome Trust in its Identity Project - a season of activities on the topic - so we're delighted to welcome Mick, On Theatre and Billy Bragg and his band. 'Pressure Drop' is a thought-provoking production. It will undoubtedly be a highlight of The Identity Project and a milestone for Wellcome Collection as its first major theatrical production."

'Pressure Drop' at Wellcome Collection
19 April-12 May, 19.30 (excluding Sundays)
Press night: 22 April 2010
£20/£15 concession
Tickets now on sale via the box office: 0844 412 4318 or online.

NB 'Pressure Drop' is a promenade production with a duration of 90 minutes. Seating is not provided. Spaces for wheelchair users are available by arrangement.
Post-show discussions will be held on Thursday 29 April and Thursday 6 May (free to same day ticket holders).

Written by Mick Gordon
Music and songs by Billy Bragg
Produced by On Theatre and Wellcome Collection
Directed by Christopher Haydon
Designed by Tom Scutt
Lighting design by Mark Howland
Sound design by Mike Furness
Sound for the band by Grant Showbiz
Casting by Nadine Rennie
Starring Billy Bragg and his band

Cast to be announced.

About 'Pressure Drop'

'Pressure Drop' continues Mick Gordon's series of theatre essays. A theatre essay is more than a play. It is a bold theatrical presentation of arguments and debates more commonly associated with the written essay form. And as with a written essay the starting point for a theatre essay is a theme and a question. So for example: 'On Death' asked "how can the dying teach us how to live?"; 'On Love' asked "how does love work?" and 'On Emotion' asked "are we just the puppets of our emotions?"

The focal question for this project 'On Identity' is "what makes me who I am?"

About Billy Bragg

Billy Bragg was born and grew up in Barking, Essex. A singer-songwriter inspired by the punk rock explosion of the late 70s, his first hit in 1984 claimed that he didn't want to change the world and wasn't looking for a new England. He has spent the past 26 years proving that declaration to be wrong. His interest in issues of identity and belonging came to a head in 2006 with the publication of his first book, 'The Progressive Patriot'. His most recent collection of songs, 'Mr Love & Justice', was released in 2008.

About The Identity Project

The 'Identity' exhibition and events programme are part of the Wellcome Trust's wider season of activity on the theme of identity, The Identity Project. Running from November 2009 to summer 2010, the season will include performances, films, artworks, exhibitions and discussion events taking place across the UK.

'Identity: Eight rooms, nine lives' is Wellcome Collection's current exhibition, running from 26 November to 6 April 2010. Each room represents an individual and uses their life and work to explore different concepts of identity.

About Wellcome Collection

Wellcome Collection opened to the public as a £30 million visitor destination in June 2007. Free to all, Wellcome Collection explores the connections between medicine, life and art in the past, present and future. The building comprises three galleries, a public events space, the Wellcome Library, a café, a bookshop, conference facilities and a members' club. Wellcome Collection is part of the Wellcome Trust.

About the Wellcome Trust

The Wellcome Trust is the largest charity in the UK. The Trust funds innovative biomedical research, in the UK and internationally, spending over £600 million each year to support the brightest scientists with the best ideas. The Wellcome Trust also supports public debate about biomedical research and its impact on health and wellbeing.