It’s Karaoke Night in The St. George. Andrea, Eddie, Asha and Kyle are ready to take a stand…  

Icon Theatre announces the cast and creative team for The Ballad of St John’s Car Park. Set at a Karaoke night, this important immersive and site-specific production celebrates true stories of community activism in Medway, from the protested closure of Chatham’s Dockyard in 1984 to the Black Lives Matter movement in 2020. The production is created and performed by a professional cast and creative team and features a community ensemble of over 100 performers.

The Ballad of St John’s Car Park is directed by Icon Theatre’s Artistic Director Nancy Hirst. Award-winning Hirst has created the theatre production with the cast and local community groups, collecting their stories to shape the production.

The script was devised and written with David King-Yombo, Tabby Lamb, Harveen Mann ARAM, and PK Taylor, and was developed further through a collaborative process with Vaneeka Dadhria, Jaye Hudson, Ravneet Sehra, the community ensemble and Theatre31.

Professional performers taking part include Vaneeka Dadhria (Cyrano de Bergerac, UK Tour and West End; Unite – It’s Not As Simple As Black & White, The New Vic), David King-Yombo (The Visit, National Theatre; Protests, Hymns and Caskets, Belgrade Theatre), PK Taylor (Jerusalem and Sweeney Todd, South Hill Park Arts Centre), and Jaye Hudson (This Isn’t a True Story, Almeida; Cacophony, Yard Theatre; The Film We Can’t See, BBC Sounds). The production also offers roles to emerging and local performers including Nicole Dunn (Get Even, BBC/Netflix; Everything I Know About Love, BBC) and Rainham-based actor Pialy Mallik (Honour, ITV; Academy Award-nominated The Long Goodbye), with more to be announced.

The production’s set and costume design are by Sarah Booth (The Firework-Maker’s Daughter, Minack Theatre; BEAM, Aldeburgh Festival), with projection design from Gino Ricardo Green (Sweat, Donmar Warehouse; This Is Not Who I Am, Royal Court) and the lighting design is by Dan Terry (Sweet Charity, Cadogan Hall; Beautiful Octopus Club, Southbank Centre). The production features mass-movement choreographed by Grace Murdoch (Artistic Director, Cheap Date; Orfeo, Minack Theatre) and includes original music and sound design by Jonathan Vincent (The One Show, BBC; Brooklyn 99, Fox/NBC).

The Ballad of St John’s Car Park will feature pupils from six local schools, who will participate as part of Icon Theatre’s award-winning young people’s programme Theatre31, and singers from Fat Lady Opera Chorus.

Taking inspiration from true stories of activism in Medway, The Ballad of St John’s Car Park explores how they have shaped the identities of individuals and the community. Stories include the Black Lives Matter movement’s campaign to rename a local car park that commemorated a prominent slave trader, the protested closure of Chatham Dockyard, local LGBTQ+ and Trans activism that led to the establishment of Medway Pride, how Sikh traditions of ‘Langar’ have positively supported protestors and young people’s involvement in the Greta Thunberg climate protests. The stories are interspersed with spectacular projections, joyous dance and uplifting karaoke, bringing these poignant stories to life in vivid ways. After the show, the bar and karaoke will stay open for an inclusive community party where the audience can perform their own karaoke songs.

The Ballad of St John’s Car Park is an Icon Theatre production and was co-commissioned by Creative Estuary’s Co-commission programme, the initiative which aims to showcase 60 miles of the North Kent and South Essex region as one of the UK’s most dynamic and creative areas, and Medway Council and is supported by Arts Council England.

Icon Theatre’s Artistic Director, Nancy Hirst comments:

The Ballad of St John’s Car Park unites an expert creative team with multiple local talents and important stories from local Medway communities. When Icon make a new production I never fully know what the outcome will be. We start off with a small creative idea and develop it with community groups and a professional team. For this production I was inspired by the strength and persistence of the Black Lives Matter movement’s campaign to change the name of a local car park that commemorated slave trader John Hawkins.

There are over 200 people in the company for The Ballad of St John’s Car Park and my aim has been to enable them to tell stories of protest that are important to them. Right now, we are at an important moment in our national history where our right to protest has been significantly restricted by recent legislation. The Ballad of St John’s Car Park seeks to demonstrate the positive side of activism.

Creative Estuary’s Director, Emma Wilcox says:

This project exemplifies our vision for the Creative Estuary Co-commissioning programme, to enable bold, ambitious work to be made with and for the communities of the estuary. It showcases the huge talent we have within our creative organisations and tells the stories of our inspiring places.

The Ballad of St John’s Car Park follows Icon Theatre’s If Not Now (February 2022), a mass-movement production exploring poverty, prejudice, and the climate crisis performed at Rochester Castle as part of Medway’s Light Nights.


The St George Hotel, Chatham
Wednesday 5 – Saturday 8 October, 7:30pm (& 2:30pm Saturday)
Tickets £1, £5, £10
Book Tickets

The Ballad of St John’s Car Park is an Icon Theatre Production co-commissioned by Creative Estuary and Medway Council supported by Arts Council England. The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport funds the Cultural Development Fund which is administered by Arts Council England.

Photo (c) Manuel Vason

‘Icon Theatre has given me new friends, taught me new skills and challenged my lack of self-belief’
— Community Performer
'It was the first time I got to see drama as something for myself and something I could actively participate in and enjoy.'
— Tef - Icon Youth Theatre (Medway)
★★★★ ‘It is easy to take for granted the acting skills of a top theatre company. But when actors embody characters as superbly as this, you can’t help but notice.’
— The New Statesman
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— The Times
'Icon has been ahead of the curve in understanding that the arts have a role to play in bringing people together, helping them be heard by telling their own stories in their own way, and in the process creating a sense of pride in place and space.'
— Lyn Gardner, Theatre Journalist

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