I’ve been wanting to work with Reading-based Hogarth Productions for a few years now. They produce, amongst other things, the annual Whitley Arts Festival which punches well over its weight in quality, depth and sheer imaginative chutzpah. In the autumn of 2015 they were given a curious brief which they asked me to help produce.
The brief was this: design and produce an invisible theatre event inspired by The Good Samaritan. The ‘theatre’ was a set of public interventions devised by Hogarth, taking place in Reading city centre, and secretly filmed. (The footage is being made into a short online film.)
We had a vicar asking passersby if he could borrow their mobile phone, and then doing the same as a homeless person; an old lady stopping busy commuters and offering them biscuits she claimed she had bought by mistake; a slick businessman dropping his wallet in full view of passers-by; and a refugee asking shoppers if they had a room for him to stay in.
The public's response was more often than not polite and patient. Occasionally it was rude and unpleasant. It was also, at times, extraordinarily, touchingly generous and open-hearted. The whole crew were moved at times and we all went away reflecting on the judgements we make of others asking us for help - and those offering it as well.