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Open Clasp return to live touring on International Women's Day with Lasagna

Based on the true life experiences of women who have lost multiple children to the care system, Lasagna opens at Live Theatre on International Women’s Day, Wednesday 8 March before touring. 

From the multi-award winning company behind New York Times Critics’ Pick Key Change and Sugar on BBC iPlayer, Lasagna was co-created with women from Pause, North East - a national charity who work with women who have had multiple children taken into care, delivered by Barnado’s in the North East of England.

Originally launched online in 2022 to coincide with the Independent Review of Children’s Social Care final report, Lasagna resonated with audiences so Open Clasp will now tour the production to venues across England including community settings and prisons as well as traditional theatre spaces.

Driven by a passionate belief that theatre can bring about social change, Catrina McHugh co-founded Open Clasp in 1998. The company places theatre at the heart of transforming the lives of women and girls, collaborating with women and young women excluded by theatre and society to create bold and urgent theatre for personal, social and political change. In 2017, Catrina was awarded an MBE for outstanding services to disadvantaged women through theatre. Pause commissioned Open Clasp to work with women in their North East group.

Catrina explains, “This commission was to highlight the gap in support for women when their children are removed into the care system, when they are at their most vulnerable. The initial workshops were face to face, then via Zoom when the pandemic hit. The process was intimate – creating writing and hearing voices that uncover a truth that is both painful and beautiful. There was such honesty and courage shown, the women knew they couldn’t change the outcome for themselves and their own children, but they wanted to help others who find themselves in their shoes. But it became clear to me that there was a bigger story to tell, of a system that is broken, and a need for real systematic change. Lasagna is about community and what is needed in order to not only survive but to thrive and grow. To reimagine and invest in a society that supports all of us to live the best lives we can.

Since 2013, Pause Practices have reached nearly 4,000 women. Vanessa is a graduate of the Pause North East programme and was one of the women who helped to co-create the play. She says, “I’m so proud to have been given the opportunity to be part of this production. The fact I was listened to when I said it would be better live than the recording as I watched the dress rehearsal and it really hit home. Now it’s touring, I can’t contain my excitement - I hope people enjoy the show and it resonates with audiences.”

The recent Independent Review of Children’s Social Care was a once in a generation opportunity to influence the support available for birth parents. Lasagna was sent to the Care Review team to offer a unique insight into the experiences of the women Pause work with, and the hope is that the play will increase awareness and understanding of the experiences of women who have had children removed from their care. Chief Executive Jules Hillier explains, “To contribute to a piece of work like Lasagna is a brave and honest act. I hope Lasagna provides insight and prompts us all to consider the journey that has brought women to this point and wish them well as their journey continues. I would like to thank everyone at Open Clasp for creating a compassionate and non-judgemental space for sharing.”

Mike, a social worker who watched Lasagna online said, “It provided lots to think about. The current political world seems to be dominated by black and white thinking, where you have to pick a side. The film certainly highlights the shades of grey in between. I could identify with Jane’s struggle with telling Sally that she was a social worker – I think the play would provide the opportunity for social workers to discuss the issues and hopefully build understanding and empathy.”

Catrina says, “Open Clasp continues to strive to reach as wide an audience as possible, so Lasagna was created for film and streamed online and now we go live. Over the last 25 years we have toured to communities throughout the North East as well as working nationally and internationally. We aim to influence those that make decisions, invest in communities and systems and through the theatre we create, we agitate for basic human rights and real change. We are so pleased to be back out on tour, our first since the pandemic, and it’s like coming home. We will be in theatres, prisons and youth & community centres, as well as the mainstream theatres. Our aim is to access all those who care, or who should care, about humanity.”

The cast are Beth Crame who recently played the lead role in The Sorcerer’s Apprentice at Northern Stage and was a finalist in the 2022 North East Culture Awards for her professional debut in the online version of Lasagna, and Zoe Lambert whose recent credits include The Winter’s Tale and The Comedy of Errors with the Royal Shakespeare Company. The creative team are Writer Catrina McHugh whose writing credits for Open Clasp include Key Change and Sugar, Director Laura Lindow (Key Change/Open Clasp), Set and Costume Designer Verity Quinn (Sugar/Open Clasp), Lighting Designer Sherry Coenen (Operation Mincemeat/Riverside Studios), and Composer and Sound Designer Roma Yagnik (The Mare of Easttown/HBO).

Lasagna runs from Wednesday 8 to Saturday 11 March 2023. Find out more and get tickets here.

  • Arts Council England
  • Community Foundation
  • European Regional Development Fund


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