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The long road to Serbia

1410874_987550277959728_1347592834129121595_oJohn Knowles talks about his most recent play Hitleria Pizzeria Parts I&II and plans for Eastern Europe.

There is a myth that Hastings lives in it’s own micro-climate and that the national weather is nothing we need to worry about: we can go it alone, sans parapluies (without umbrellas). But we can’t.

Ideologically I have always seen myself as European. I find the notion that you should have some pride in where your father’s sperm took hold mildly laughable. I am a citizen of the world with an annoying sarcastic chip on my shoulder from having been brought up in Liverpool.

My latest play, Hitleria Pizzeria Parts I&II, is set firmly in Eastern Europe and yet, in these times of Brexit, Trump and Boris Johnson, it is about the universality of us. All of us. It’s about being human in times of flux; it’s about living in uncertain times; it is about power and corruption and the struggle of daily lives; it is an absurd comedy, worthy of the absurd times we live in.

One of my aims this year has been to have theatre in Hastings taken more seriously, a difficult task given our flagship theatres’ lack of any balls – and their ability to continue to be subsidised to show the likes of ‘Puppetry of the Penis’. (Yes you paid for people to see that show out of your Council Tax!).

Personally I have invested my own money in three new plays this year: Time Please, Toby Belch is Unwell and now, Hitelria Pizzeria Parts I&II. And next year, I will be developing Caliban’s Books with newly arrived acting talent, Emily Carding of Brite Theatre, with plans to take the monologue to the Prague Festival in 2018.

This is an example of outreach and not buy-in; its easy to spend Arts Council money on programming a festival (I know, I’ve done it loads of times), it’s much harder to support the outreach of works produced locally (be that music or theatre) and make a mark outside of the micro-climate of Hastings.

I’ve often said that IF Hastings music is to be taken seriously in the UK, then it needs to be supported outside of Hastings and taken to major festivals and events, supported by HBC – and I feel the same with theatre. It isn’t good enough to be talking to ourselves, there is a bigger world out there, I know, I’ve seen it.

Now we have arriving, like cultural refugees, a tide of writers, performers and theatre creatives who are not only longing for opportunities to work here, but are also genuinely interested in taking their work further afield, showcasing the unique development of independent writing and producing that is happening here and now in Hastings.

Hitleria Pizzeria has now gained interest from groups: one in the Balkans, who wish to help develop the play and to stage a reading at The National Theatre of Serbia; one in Belgrade, who want to make a film of the stage-play and one in Ukraine, where we are talking to companies about co-producing work for 2018 and beyond.

The play is a dystopian absurdist drama which pays homage to the likes of Dario Fo. It is a play which breaks theatre rules and which confronts the audience on several levels. At just under two hours it is also my first full-length play and a challenge to stage with no financial support, but such is my belief that now is the time for this play and for independent theatre in Hastings, that myself and the cast have decided to be the revolution we want to see.

Hitleria Pizzeria opens on 9 November and runs for three nights at the Garage, through the Horse and Groom, 4 Mercatoria, St Leonards on Sea.

Tickets are £12 and £10 concession and are available from Brown Paper Tickets.

For more on the play and to buy tickets and support new theatre writing in Hastings, check out The Never Played.

And finally if you are a theatre maker new to the area and wish to become involved in The Hastings Theatre Steering Group being developed by John Knowles, then contact him at

Posted 11:29 Wednesday, Oct 18, 2017 In: Performance

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