Creating The Important Man has been a fascinating journey into the world of fortune telling and belief in the early twentieth century, particularly focussed on the First World War. Cap-a-Pie was first commissioned by UHArts at the University of Hertfordshire, and supported by the Everyday Lives in War Engagement Centre, to work with academic researcher Professor Owen Davies to create a play that brought his research to life. The result has been an 18-month collaboration developing The Important Man.

At Cap-a-Pie we’ve always been very keen to find the contemporary interest in a story that at first glance seems to be set in a world very different to ours. In an age of instant digital communication and 24 hour news it seems unthinkable to need to visit a fortune teller. However we were struck a few months into creating the show by a report on the radio about the increased use of fortunetellers today in Ukraine by people whose family members were missing in the conflict there. At times of uncertainty we seem to instinctively reach out and seek answers and reassurance. The Important Man is an exploration of what is means to believe and the people that seek to exploit this human need.

Cap-a-Pie has been working in collaboration with Professor Owen Davies and with creative input from students and members of the community. Together we have been exploring Owen’s research into fortune-tellers, and the people that visited them, during the First World War. The piece shows the breadth of the different types of fortune tellers and the needs of their clients.