Red Ladder Theatre Company

History


THE CHANGING SHAPES OF RED LADDER

A radical theatre company with over 40 years of history behind it, Red Ladder aims to make provocative theatre that contributes to social change and global justice.

The Agitprop Street Players – as Red Ladder was originally known – emerged when a group from a socialist information service performed a play at the Trafalgar Square Festival of 1968.

The plays were short and biting, morale-boosting sketches often relying on striking visual images to get the message across, they were highly portable relying on few props and were performed at mass political demonstrations, tenants association meetings, weekend schools etc.

Gradually the basis of the work broadened and plays that fed directly into particular struggles and issues developed; such as ‘The Big Con’ against the Industrial Relations Act and ‘The Cake Play’ against productivity bargaining,

The 60’s were an era of riots, demonstrations and revolt – economic prosperity served to broaden political debate and theatre wanted to take part in this revolution of ideas. As it was conventional theatre changed little so the ‘alternative’ emerged in the shape of fringe theatre. Red Ladder became a prominent member of the fringe movement, known as one of the best established political theatre companies in Britain.

By 1971, the name Red Ladder evolved, after a much loved and used prop. There also evolved a policy of taking theatre to ‘working class’ audiences in places where working people usually find their entertainment, this now included trade union clubs.

By 1973 the commitment of the company was recognised with an Arts Council grant of £4,000 and in 1976 the company moved from London to Leeds, Yorkshire and is still based in the city, although it continues to tour on a national basis.

 

For information on past shows, including dates, credits, images and video content please visit Past Shows.

For an overview of the company’s history to the present day please view the following document: Changing History of Red Ladder – 2015

For an insight into the Red Ladder approach to rehearsing and making theatre please view the following document:Rehearsal

 

Artistic Directors:

Rachel Feldberg (1986 – 1994)
Kully Thiarai (1994 -1998)
Wendy Harris (1998 – 2006)
Rod Dixon (2006 – Present)

The 2012-15 business plan takes Red Ladder’s work to the next level. To engage audiences in theatre venues with high quality new writing with a unique political voice; to engage audiences in non-theatre venues such as working men’s clubs, community centres, public houses, trades union conferences and galas; to engage participants and audiences in community shows and continue our high quality training and education work which, like our stage work is geared towards provoking debate and raising awareness of the need for social change. In order to maintain our high profile and work with the very best artists to maintain excellence it will be company policy to engage an external dramaturg on all new scripts.

 

Vision:

Red Ladder Theatre Company’s work contributes to the global movement which demands that we move towards a more socially, environmentally and financially just world.

 

Mission:

To make high quality theatre which provokes debate about the world in which we live; theatre which supports struggle and gives voice to the dispossessed; theatre of dissent.

 

Asian Theatre School

Red Ladder’s Asian Theatre School was directed by Madani Younis from 2002 – 2007, when it moved to Bradford and was rebranded as the independently run Freedom Studios.

Madani Younis is currently artistic director of the Bush Theatre. His work at Freedom Studios included the site-specific work, The Mill – City of Dreams. He has also worked nationally and internationally as theatre director, writer and practitioner. Madani staged seven productions for Red Ladder Theatre Company’s Asian Theatre School – Streets of Rage (2002); Silent Cry (2003 – regional, 2004 – national tour); Freeworld (2004 – an international collaboration with the Studio Theatre Damascus, Syria); Caravan (2005 – West Yorkshire Playhouse); Freefalling (2005 – Red Ladder Theatre Company, national tour); A Waiting Room for Journeying Souls (2005 – Peepul Centre, Leicester), and Doors (2007- Red Ladder Theatre Company, national tour).