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Classical music in the manor

MEET THE TEAM: Jeff Nottingham (second from right) with members of the cast

THE MOZART Estate in north-west London is not known for its classical music or conservative culture.

On the contrary, the area was once so notorious for being drug-ridden, it earned the nickname ‘crack city’.

But from October 6, a string quartet will descend on the area and mix with local grime artists, to form the setting of the new play Lost In Mozart.

Seeking to explore real life issues that plague the area, the play tells the story of dangerous friendships, warring estates and youth alienation, through local MCs who’ll spit their stories to classical music.

The play is based on the personal experiences of its creator Jeff Nottingham, who moved to London from Swindon after university. He reveals how he experienced a severe culture shock when he started to work in a youth club in south Kilburn.

“I worked there for over a decade,” Nottingham recalls. “I saw a lot that affected me. Young people who had a lot of beef with others, would break into the youth club to steal the computers. But what interested me was the reasoning behind the behaviour, which I think is the lack of positive male role models. I wanted to put all the things I learnt and perceived about the youngsters into writing.”

The play follows a group of young people who lose their leader after he is violently put in a coma. They realise their teacher doesn’t care about them after they leave school and find that the local drug dealer is the person who talks the most sense.

Nottingham hopes to challenge stereotypes and change the perceptions of those who feel threatened by the sight of groups of hoodie-wearing youths. But he admits he can empathise with that stereotypical way of thinking.

“I’m white, middle class, and in a way, I can understand the fear that people feel because hoods do hide the face. But for youngsters, it gives them anonymity and confidence.

“The majority of the youth are deeply insecure and trying to hide from the society that is ready to condemn them. Gangs are really tight friendship groups and there is a huge emphasis on loyalty that should be applauded.”

Shining new light on an area that is well known for representing the ugly side of London, the play depicts the unseen attractiveness of the estate through the main character who is a photography student.

“He manages to capture the beauty of his home, although others see it as a place of crime and poverty.”

Inspired by the kids that frequent his youth club, Nottingham has incorporated grime and rap into the production.

“I was impressed with the talent that so many young people have for writing lyrics and music. You see these guys who want to present themselves as tough, but when they are performing, you know they have been sitting up writing poetry all night, often about things that are so much different from what they normally say.”

The play promises to be a ground breaking event for those who want to see a different side of urban society and for anyone who appreciates good music.

Lost In Mozart will be performed at the Tabernacle, Notting Hill, London W11 from October 6-8. For more information, visit www.lostinmozart.com

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