First came the rumours, then the emails, ‘consultation process’, meetings, more meetings and then the final decision. Naomi Lowde was to be made redundant.
As her colleagues at Haringey Council searched listings and posted CVs, the 31-year-old focused her energy on an entirely different task.
“The whole redundancy process took at least six months,“ the former policy officer explains, “after a week it felt depressing. It was really long and drawn out. Seeing colleagues go, it was just really intense.
“Then during one meeting, I just started imagining all the managers getting up on the tables and starting to sing and dance on the desks. I thought – that’s pretty funny! That’s when I had the idea of making a musical.“
Maybe the strain had cracked her. Naomi prefers to call it ’an epiphany’. Unable to dismiss the idea, she rushed home at the end of each day to spend hours penning a script and songs for Redundancy, an ’indie pop opera’, which opens next month.
“I couldn’t shake off the thought,“ she tells me. She doesn’t look mad. A little windswept perhaps but she has just jetted here from her Seven Sisters home by bike.
“I don’t think anyone believed I was serious about it,“ she explains, her Australian accent faded by ten years in the capital. “If someone had told me, I’d be like – well good luck with that!
“I’m someone that just jumps in the deep end sometimes. If there’s an opportunity, I’ll take it before thinking.“
Precious little script writing experience and even less in theatre couldn’t stop her. As she quietly scribbled down ideas during her last days on the job, by night she simply found out what to do and did it.
“I’m someone that’s always done research on what I need to know about,“ she tells me. “I looked things up on Google, read a lot. I just researched and researched, learning as I went along.“
The songs quickly took shape and by her last day, a first draft was pretty much complete.
The story follows Elsie, a young market researcher, whose company is facing huge cuts. Several months prior, she began a relationship with her boss Tom, who suggests he’ll protect her position. But this doesn’t sit well with the principled Elsie and the gap between them grows as Tom takes the directors’ side in the redundancy process. Elsie finds comfort in her colleagues as they deal with their present and imagine their futures. Will Elsie risk her career for her integrity?
“I knew this was the right thing for the right time, I just needed to focus all this energy. All the scenes just came out of me. It’s such an intense moment, their whole lives are being turned upside down.“
Getting the script to stage was done with yet more research. Actors and the director, Emma Baxter, were found online. Readings were organised, and bands enlisted to play the songs. This weekend there is a showcase performance at Rich Mix before the full production moves to Islington’s Hen and Chickens Theatre.
“I think, initially, I was a bit delusional maybe! Think big and go with what you can,“ she says. “I imagined that it would end up in the West End. I’m just going to take this for a ride and see where it goes.“
Naomi remembers a redundancy coach once said to her that after losing a job, some people fall into depths of despair while others re-invent themselves and seize the opportunity.
“This has been the best thing that’s happened to me. It feels like a real gift. This is ultimately where I want to end up, now that I’ve finally found my path and I’m right on it.“
Redundancy The Musical, showcase event is at Rich Mix, Bethnal Green Road, on January 22 at 3.30pm. It is at Hen and Chickens Theatre, St Paul’s Road from February 21 to 25 at 7pm. www.redundancythemusical.com