PRIVACY and photography are the main thematic focuses of a new production by Brighton company The Future is Unwritten. Based around the life and work of enigmatic American photographer Vivian Maier, of whom very little is know, Still explores the morality of surveillance, from street photography to CCTV.

The theatre group spoke to many urban cameramen in the course of researching their topic, as well as a computer hacker – a fictionalised version of whom is the main character. Performed in a gallery type space, with action happening both around the audience and on their smartphones, Still asks: Is there any privacy left? Paul Hodson of The Future is Unwritten spoke to EDWIN GILSON about the show.

What did the street photographers you interviewed tell you about their attitudes towards privacy in their work?

Everyone’s different. Some say they like to be invisible, and stand on a spot for four hours, while others zoom around and get what they can. JJ Waller is a Brighton street photographer and he was very helpful. He takes great shots, but then what do you do? Do you go up and ask people whether you can use them in your book? It’s about morality as well as practicality. Loads of Vivian Maier’s work was taken without people’s knowledge or permission.

How did Vivian Maier come to be the central figure of your production?

The process for me started with Vivian Maier. She died before anything of hers was published, so immediately you’re into another area of privacy. She never exhibited and didn’t want to be published. I was thinking about telling her story but there are vastly contradictory opinions about her from different people. It’s not like doing a show about Horatio Nelson, say, where there are loads of facts available. Who are we to grab her story and stick it on stage? Aren’t we being intrusive? I was in the middle of thinking about that when all the [Edward] Snowden stuff was coming out, so I worked that theme of privacy into it too. I also met people who had earned a lot of money through hacking.

How did the hackers justify their hacking?

If you asked them if it was legal, they went a bit quiet. One particular person we spoke to made a lot of money out of selling information. That was through accessing hundreds and thousands of people’s Facebook accounts and selling it. There are more than one or two breakdowns in the hacking world, with people going off the rails. Our character goes through that herself. She has to escape her job, and she does this by going to Chicago. She walks in to this huge exhibition of Vivian Maier and, in her hallucinatory state, she conjures up her own vision of Maier.

What’s the background of The Future is Unwritten?

We did a show called Meeting Joe Strummer, about The Clash frontman and his legacy. One of his catchphrases was “The Future is Unwritten”, so we took that name. We try to make work that is heartfelt, accessible and funny.

Still, The Old Market, Upper Market Street, Hove, March 1 and 2, 7.30pm on March 1, 6.30pm and 8.30pm on March 2, £12.50, 01273 201801