1990s Season: A beginning / by Felix Mortimer

By Dan Sellick, RIFT producer and Gruff, a theatre company. 

It's a strangely cathartic experience to dissect an era that for you consisted of playing Tomb Raider and reading Anthony Horowitz 'Diamond Brother's' books. I turned seven three weeks before the end of the Millennium. I can't even really claim to be a "90's kid", I've nothing but snippets, ideas, photos from which to construct an idea of that era. For me the 1990's is as much an era confined to history as the 1890's. I can tell you what happened, a list of historical social political and economical factors that construct a textbook approach to a decade. But that's not the basis for collective memory or understanding. 

As we sat around and spoke through what the 1990's meant to us, and how this could be reflected in our season of work focused on the decade, I kept quiet. We spoke at length about the feeling of the era, the sway of collective consciousness from Thatcher to Major to Blair, from Public to Private ownership and the influence of girl power. In theory, these things are understandable, relatable, documentable and discussable regardless of whether you lived in that time or not but in practice, sat around that table, history, memory and nostalgia all converged into one. Anything I had to say felt like a story from a friend of a friend, a half baked concoction of information that lacked familiarity or fraternity with its subject. 

When this season opens at the end of February, 2017, those who knew the 1990's will recognise within the world we are creating in Tottenham the consciousness of Britain in the 90's, but for me, what I'm excited about is opening a new conversation for my generation, those with little to know memory of that decade. 

Throughout the six weeks of this season we will be inviting 10 young playwrights, one born every year in the 1990's, to become artists in residency at STYX. Working alongside the creative team behind the season and our associated artists, these 10 playwrights will be creating fresh commissions as a response to their concept of the 1990's, and the season in which they are working. I think it's important to recognise where memory and mythology overlap, and to examine where the social memory and historical reality of the era differ. I think this residency programme will go someway towards illuminating this. 



It feels like the issues, questions and demands of then are still as relevant now if not more so. 

What was so strange was thinking about the 90’s not just as a time when we were growing up - where the biggest issues in our mind was when The Spice Girls' movie was coming out, but this detachment from what was really happening in the world. Memories were distant of war across the world; glimmering moments of parents with furrowed brows. 

In the three plays within the season violence stalks the stage - complicity and shared responsibility of what is happening now, what has happened and what will happen if we do not act and re-see is at the forefront. It is our job to provoke the audience into seeing past a furrowed brow and show them a glimmer of the horror.

It was the height of shaping our framework of reality, conversations of ‘Friends’ as our understanding of how to behave as a grown up. The beginning of the internet, a fresh time where global events were curated for our understanding, shaping what we knew and didn’t know. It seemed that conversations turned to the fact that the 90’s were the beginning of globalisation as we know it. The era of the ‘I’. How can I emulate the celebrity? How can I forget whats going on with the world? 

To try to construct and examine the place and time that moulded our minds into what they are now through a collective season of playwrights that were the shocking voice of that time is fascinating to see where we can take them. WE CAN’T WAIT!