What would you do with 167 billion pounds?

[Script for a pitch to three venues, who are now giving me some space and stuff to make the show, which I will do if I get enough funding in, or if I don’t I’ll probably just delete this out of shame and regret.]

You could hire the entire of Bangladesh for a year based on its gdp, of half of Malaysia, or two Azerbaijans.

You could buy about 12.5 million five-door Nissan Micra Teknas.

Or you could buy enough weaponry to turn over a million people into blackened, smouldering husks.

Dramatic tea-drinking pause 1

As it stands, none of these things have happened yet. As it stands, all are equally imaginary. They are not real.

In the brisk central european October of 2014, a band of architecture, civil engineering and urban planning students started laying down chunks of concrete and wood in the square of Karsplatz in Vienna. They called the city they made there Hypotopia, and it was planned down to the tiniest detail. They knew it had 102,574 inhabitants. They knew which buildings they lived in, even who lived on what floors. They knew where their waste was incinerated and recycled. They knew where the hospital, the schools and the cinemas were. There were no banks. And they knew the exact price tag of the city. 19 billion euros to a cent. The exact amount given from public funds to underwrite the Austrian Hypo bank’s outstanding loans since the financial crash of 2008. But of course, guarantees of liquidity to holding companies are not like regular money that you could spend on a city. They’re imaginary. They’re not real.

Dramatic tea-drinking pause 2

Nuketown is a city built not on rock and roll, but on 167 billion pounds of imaginary money, a vast quantity of lego bricks and a collective imagining. Like Hypotopia, it will be made with the help of architecture, town planning and sociology experts, but unlike Hypotopia, it will be made with help from the public who are footing the bill for the alternative, the Trident programme of ballistic nuclear submarines which is planned to be renewed this year. In the planning, writing and rehearsal of the show, people will be allowed to drop in, help dream up an ideal part of the city that they’d like to see, then help build it with us, in an activity somewhere between art therapy, group protest and a massive fuckoff game of real life minecraft. Their stories and ideas will breathe life into the project, and give the city the strange collective identity that we know each of our hometowns has. They will inform the storytelling piece I create around the city, where a set of cameras on a live feed will follow individual citizens through the streets, charting their tiny tragedies and triumphs with an original musical score as they make their way across a town powered by the husks of the old Tridents subs buried under their soil, a ghostly remnant of an alternate world that could suck them back into it at any moment.

Dramatic tea-drinking pause 3. Build to crescendo 

Much more than big money and bigger bombs, its cities that fascinate me. When the people of chalcolithic West Asia started to congregate on the Barada river in around 6300BC, in modern day Damascus, they were just looking for a place to drink clean water, worship their gods and raise some cattle and or children. They didn’t know they were becoming part of the larger symbiotic creature of the city, one that would subsume their identities, their ideas and their boundaries into one great cybernetic mass, plant them a million miles from any river or field and fill their air with dust and adverts, scrabble the flesh of mountains into ever taller shrines to strange new idols: Cathedrals in the 12th century, Castles in the 15th century, Banks in the 21st. Cities offer the gift and the curse of namelessness. They are places in which we can be anything or nothing. They are places where any individual can leave their past behind and start again.

Dramatic tea drinking pause 4. Wind down to finale.

Nucleotopia is like that, but a bit different. It is a place where a whole country can start again. It is a place where art and life meet, where we say, but what if we actually, really, genuinely did something completely different? And if it gets bigger, more visible, more complex, that question could inch closer to an answer. But this is just a pitch to a consortium of theatre venues. It is imaginary. It’s not real. It is a non-place, which is what the greek word utopia etymologically means. But imaginary things are what I deal in, and I love them, so that is all I can offer you.


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