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Red Ladder Theatre Company

News

Edinburgh Fringe 2022

Watch out, Edinburgh. We’re heading to the Fringe!

We’re excited to announce that we will be taking MY VOICE WAS HEARD BUT IT WAS IGNORED by breakthrough talent Nana-Kofi Kufuor to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival 2022 as part of the Summerhall programme.

Following a successful tour in 2021 we are thrilled that this gripping and urgent play – and the pertinent questions it raises about racial identity – will reach a wider audience at this year’s festival.

Rod Dixon said:  “ We’ve reunited a fantastic creative team including director Dermot Daly and look forward to taking this necessary and relevant work to an international audience in Edinburgh.”

Nana-Kofi Kufuor is a Ghanaian-English writer from Stockport making big waves in theatre. He is currently a cohort of the Hampstead Theatre’s INSPIRE programme mentored by award-winning playwright Roy Williams and an associate artist at Oldham Coliseum.

The play draws influence from his experiences growing up in Stockport with Ghanaian parents, and working in education with young people from a range of backgrounds. 

Nana-Kofi Kufuor said: Working at a Pupil Referral Unit, I once had a student try to take a knife to stab another student. Once I’d calmed him down, we sat in the canteen and he explained to me he wasn’t going to go quietly. The police were outside and they took him. I saw him a few weeks later, and he asked why I didn’t help him? That rush of guilt changed to anger and quickly to sympathy as he saw me as his protector. But I knew I couldn’t do anything. The crux of this play is how two people react to the same situation: they go on a journey; a journey a lot of people of colour go on – a realisation that where you are now isn’t necessarily where you come from.”  

The play is directed by Leeds-based actor, director and filmmaker Dermot Daly whose extensive credits for stage and screen include work with Leeds Playhouse, Slung Low, Talawa, Theatre Royal Stratford East, BBC, ITV and Channel 4.

Dermot Daley said “My Voice Was Heard But It Was Ignored is a play about identity, about love, and how both of those things intersect with race. We don’t talk about race. We shout about race, we worry about it, we ignore it, we politicise it, but we don’t talk about it and the experiences and quality of life that are impacted by being ‘other’. This play investigates what race can feel like; how it touches everything, including a tangible sense of self.”

The original cast reprise their roles with Misha Duncan-Barry as ‘Gillian’ and Jelani D’Aguilar as ‘Reece’.

MY VOICE WAS HEARD BUT IT WAS IGNORED will play from Wednesday 3 – Sunday 28 August 2022 (No performance 15 & 22 August). 

FIND OUT MORE


FREE Red Grit Taster in Castleford

Live in the Castleford area? Want to give acting a try? Come to a taster!

We’re thrilled to be working with brilliant Red Ladder Local partner Queen’s Mill in Castleford to offer a FREE Red Grit taster session for people in South East Leeds.

Following the success of our Leeds-based courses we’re thinking about offering sessions further afield, so this is a great opportunity for us to say “Hello Castleford!” and for residents in South East Leeds to decide whether they’d like the full Red Grit experience!

In this 3 hour session Rod Dixon (Artistic Director) will explore a range of acting techniques, offering a taste of what the full Red Grit programme is all about.

Suitable for ages 18+

Saturday 26th March, 10am – 1pm

Find out more


Leeds Lit Fest 2022

Leeds Lit Fest | Saturday 26th February to Sunday 6th March

The award winning Leeds Lit Fest kicks off this month, celebrating the vibrant and thriving literature scene in Leeds!

We cannot wait for this year’s Leeds Lit Fest, which will be taking place at venues across Leeds from Saturday 26 February – Sunday 5 March. The festival programme is bigger and more jam packed than ever before, and it’s certainly not just for book lovers.

There are over 50 events on offer including comedy, cabaret, a film screening, art exhibition, theatre performance, a literature walk and creative writing workshops, alongside more traditional literary talks, book readings and poetry events.

There will also be a programme of children’s and family events, including events with award winning children’s authors Chitra Soundar, Andy Mulligan and Steve Cole. 

Many of the events will take place across the city and will also be streamed online meaning you can get involved wherever you are!  The festival has also committed to a Pay What You Feel admission price policy for Leeds residents on many of the events, so a top tip is to keep an eye out for where that applies.

See you there!

Team Red Ladder x

Festival Highlights

Performance

Charles Dickens Double Bill | Wed 2 March, The Leeds Library

The Full Bronte Cabaret | Sat 5 March, Carriageworks Theatre

Commoners Choir | Sun 6 March, Carriageworks Theatre

Exhibition

Seeing Asylum | Fri 4 to Sun 6 March, Trinity Church

Author Talks

AC Grayling – For The Good of The World | Sun 27 Feb

Jonathan Drori – The Secret Life of Trees | Mon 28 Feb

Johann Hari – Stolen Focus | Sat 5 March

Poetry

Diana Anphimiadi at The Leeds Poetry Translation Centre | Fri 4 March

Africa Writes Leeds | Sat 5 March

Tickets and further information can be found at www.leedslitfest.co.uk or Leeds Inspired | Facebook: @LeedsLitFest | Twitter: @LeedsLit | #LLF22 


GOOD NEWS: RED LADDER IS BACK

Having postponed our latest touring production My Voice Was Heard But It Was Ignored in 2020 due to Covid restrictions, we are delighted to tell you that we’re back on and opening in our home city of Leeds in November
2021.

My Voice Was Heard But It Was Ignored was developed as part of a year-long writing commission for Manchester’s Box Of Tricks Theatre and staged as a rehearsed reading at HOME, Manchester, in January 2020 where our Artistic Director, Rod Dixon, was part of an invited audience.

“I felt that it was such an important piece of work exploring race and identity; it thrusts the audience into the centre of a discussion and asks ‘if you see something you do not agree with, do you intervene?’ says Rod.

The stage debut of writer Nana-Kofi Kufuor; My Voice Was Heard But It Was Ignored is an interrogation of black identity for which he has drawn on his own experience growing up in Stockport with Ghanian parents and working in education with young people from a range of backgrounds.

“The crux of this play is how two people react to the same situation,” Kofi explains. “They go on a journey, a journey a lot of people of colour go on, a realisation that where you are now isn’t necessarily where you come from.”

My Voice Was Heard But It Was Ignored opens with 15-year-old Reece (Jelani D’Aguilar) being roughly accosted by police. His young, Black teacher Gillian (Misha Duncan-Barry) witnesses it all but doesn’t question or intervene as the disturbing scene plays out. The consequences of her lack of action erupt the following day when Gillian finds herself locked in a classroom with Reece.

Director Dermot Daly says: “I was really taken by the conceit and breadth of themes and ideas. Thematically it’s huge, but ostensibly it’s about the meaning and creation of identity which is something that affects us all. Neither character is who they want to be but both appear to be trapped, robbed of agency, this perception in them and hopefully of the audience shifts quite dramatically as we progress. Worry not, there are a few gags in there.”

“For five decades Red Ladder has been producing new writing by voices whose work is often unheard,” Rod concludes. “So we’re very excited to be working with Nana-Kofi Kufuor on a piece borne of a real life experience.”

Opens at Leeds Playhouse on 11th – 13th November then on tour.

Book Here>>



Update: My Voice Was Heard But It Was Ignored postponed tour

Due to the government announcement that West and South Yorkshire will go into Tier 3 restrictions, meaning that all indoor entertainment and tourist venues must close, it is with great sadness that Red Ladder is unable to tour our new production My Voice Was Heard But It Was Ignored.

Rod Dixon, artistic director of Red Ladder Theatre Company said,

While this is the news that none of us wanted, we are proud of our cast and creative team, company and freelance staff who have worked incredibly hard to create this new production. Whether adapting to making this new work in a Covid-secure rehearsal room or working remotely, everyone has put an incredible amount of time, passion, dedication and hard work into bringing Nana-Kofi Kufuor’s powerful debut play to life.

More than anything we wish that circumstances were different and that we were welcoming our audiences on tour of our new show. We press on with hope and optimism to bring this work to the stage in 2021 – and Red Ladder stands in solidarity with all our fellow theatre-makers in these difficult times. We hope our audiences stay safe and well

Director Dermot Daly added,

Whilst this clearly isn’t what we had in mind when we started on this project we have, during this period, done something remarkable and proven the viability, value, and virtue of theatre and storytelling.

An amazing cast coupled with a nuanced and beautifully rich script complemented by the most dedicated, hardworking, and talented creative team has created something, that, when it’s seen by a wider audience (and it will) will do all of the things that good storytelling should do.

Persevering – as many of our colleagues have – through this period has proven just how resilient and adaptable our wider industry is and can be.

If you have bought tickets for any of the venues on the tour dates, they will be in contact.


Introducing Nana-Kofi Kufuor

English-Ghanaian writer Nana-Kofi Kufuor is the writer behind My Voice Was Heard But It Was Ignored, a gripping new play which Red Ladder Theatre Company is producing for its world premiere tour. Find out more as we caught up with Kofi during rehearsals of our new production.

What inspired you to write My Voice Was Heard But It Was Ignored?

I worked at the PRU (Pupil Referral Unit) and once had a student try to take a knife to stab another student. Once I’d calmed him down, we sat in the canteen and he explained to me he wasn’t going to go quietly. The police were outside and they took him. I saw him a few weeks later, and he asked why I didn’t help him. That rush of guilt changed to anger and then quickly to sympathy as he saw me as his protector. But I knew I couldn’t do anything.

Please tell us about My Voice Was Heard But It Was Ignored in your own words.

There’s a continuous debate between black people in this country – how much of ourselves do we actually know? How much of ourselves do we give up to fit in? My Voice Was Heard But It Was Ignored is about the argument of blackness, and who gets to define it. It’s basically about being black and having to navigate all spaces.

On one side black people almost code to fit in. The other side of that is black people that feel like they can be themselves and want to enlighten other black people, free them of that societal burden. This play enters those ideas in an almost frenetic manner.

Both characters represent me in a way – Gillian represents the younger version of me that was more hesitant to engage in politics or to see the world for what it really is. Reece represents aspects of me now, where I have read up on my history and cultures and I am more vocal and engage in black activism. They represent different viewpoints, but they are two sides of the same coin.

If you could use three words to describe Gillian and Reece what would they be?

To describe Gillian I would say guarded, aware and tired. Reece is self-assured, witty and cocky. By the end of the piece you could argue the words would be switched. Gillian helps Reece understand a lot and vice-versa, but Gillian already knows these things; she has learnt the ability to code-switch and fade into the background to fit in. They both go on a journey, a journey a lot of people of colour, or people from different places, go on – a realisation that where you are now isn’t necessarily where you come from.

How important to you was it to have authenticity in these characters?

Every play strives to be authentic and this one is no different – the language is massively important for this piece. Reece cannot sensor himself. It wouldn’t work, you’d feel he is holding back. He would be holding back for the some of the audience who may be offended by some of the language. It would negate the whole point of the play, the whole point of his character, his arc, who he is and what he is trying to explain to Gillian.

Working with Box of Tricks [Kofi was a year-long writer-on-attachment with the company] helped when I was developing the play; they let me be free. They never once said this may offend or can you tone it down. That helped me keep some raw anger and energy.

What are your cultural influences and main inspirations on your creative work?

My mother and big sister have shaped my outlook on life. My mother worked two jobs when I was a kid, and she was always happy, always laughing and joking. She loved tv shows like Keeping Up Appearances and Only Fools and Horses and Last of The Sumer Wine. Now I’m older and look back, I feel like this was her way of acclimatising to a completely different culture from her own as Ghanaians. My big sister Mammy also taught me I would say my outlook, and I also think I get my temperament from her.

My culture influences have to come from my family in general; it was almost like being in two worlds growing up. We had Ghana in the house – the food, the language, the rules, and then outside I had Stockport, which has less rules. I would say my writing influences if honest do not come from theatre but from films, especially what would be considered world cinema. I owe my writing style to my favourite teacher Julia Wilde from Cheadle and Marple Sixth Form college who introduced me to films like City Of God, La Haine, London To Brighton, Once We Warriors. The films she showed me were about people from those countries, but their stories are rarely told as people of colour or different religious backgrounds or working-class people. It showed me my voice was important and I could write the stories of people I know or have interacted with or things I’d seen, and people would care

As an exciting new voice in theatre, how have you found your experiences of the industry so far?

An exciting new voice? Hahahahaha, no pressure! I originally had no intention of writing theatre until I met Suzanne Bell at the Royal Exchange Theatre, who insisted theatre was for everyone. She kept hammering home the idea that all voices needed to be heard.  Eventually I joined a writer’s group she had in the summer of 2018, and the rest is history. Oldham Coliseum have taken me under their wing and given me advice and space to write and help. I’m always learning but I haven’t really changed my style that much.

Is there an intention you hope for the production of My Voice Was Heard But It Was Ignored?

If I say what I hope people will take-away from this, I would be doing a disservice to the play. There are so many themes and everyone will take away something different. The only thing that I ask is that no one watch it and say it was okay, because then it hasn’t done its job. I would much rather someone say “bloody hell, Black Lives Matter again, I saw it on Britain’s Got Talent too”. That shows you had a reaction and a connection. I want people to feel something when watching this, positive or negative – otherwise it hasn’t done its job. I just hope people come with an open mind. I want them to come up to me after and say I didn’t like this, or I loved this. I’m not precious about my work in the sense I want to invoke a reaction, otherwise why write?

To book tickets for My Voice Was Heard But It Was Ignored and for tour updates, click here.



Join our board!

We are looking for new people to help play a part in shaping our future by joining our existing Board of Trustees!

Update: We have now closed applications to join our Board, but we’re still searching for a new Chair (please see below).

We want people from all backgrounds, communities, and experiences to be part of Red Ladder, both in terms of how the company is run and in the stories that we tell.

We know that lots of people aren’t really sure what being on a board of trustees means or what the requirements are – so if you haven’t been on a board before, please don’t let that put you off! We have created a pack with all the information you need and also a bit about our current board members. ?

Also our current Chair, Tessa, is looking to step down after six years, so we are also looking for someone in particular to take over this key role, to co-ordinate and lead decision-making on behalf of the Board at this crucial and exciting time. We have another pack below if you are interested in our Chair role. ?

Interested?

If you are interested in coming on board then get in touch! When you do, we would love you to consider these three questions:

• Who are you?
• Why does the role interest you/what would you like to achieve from being part of the Red Ladder board?
• What relevant skills or experience do you have that you would bring to the board?

We would expect no more than a couple of sentences for each question. You can provide links to existing work/CV or social media profiles if that helps to introduce yourself and give us a sense of your past work and experience.

You can send these answers over by email to chris@redladder.co.uk. Or if you could prefer to record a video or audio file, or send your answers to these questions in any other format then just get in touch.

There is no official deadline for getting in touch – we are hoping to go through a ‘rolling’ process of recruitment from October 2020 – March 2021.

Next Steps

Once you’ve got in touch, we’ll organise a short informal chat – 30 mins on video conferencing software at a time to suit all parties. This will be with a member of the existing board and/or staff team to hear a little more about what is involved, discuss the current priorities of the board and the role in more detail.

If we feel like it’s the right fit for both parties, then we’ll invite you to come to a board meeting, so you can make sure you are happy before officially joining the board.For more details on the induction process for new board members, visit our website: redladder.co.uk/about/governance

For more details on the induction process for new board members, visit our website: redladder.co.uk/about/governance


New Commissions, New Beginnings!

It’s September time: new beginnings are brewing, and hope is in the air. There’s no denying that this is a difficult time for our industry, but we have some good news to share with you! We are thrilled to announce our support of two brilliant Emerging Writers…

It is with huge pride that we announce our latest commission – ‘My Voice Was Heard But It Was Ignored’ by emerging playwright Nana-Kofi Kufuor!

In January this year, Rod attended a rehearsed reading of Nana-Kofi’s play ‘My Voice Was Heart But It Was Ignored’ as part of Box of Tricks’ PlayBox Writers’ Scheme. Since then, Red Ladder has been working closely with Kofi to develop the piece further. 

It is our pleasure to announce that, despite the uncertainties of Covid-19, we have been able to move forward with plans to commission Nana-Kofi to produce his hard-hitting first play!

Nana-Kofi’s writing is influenced by his experiences growing up in Stockport with Ghanaian parents, alongside his background working in educational provisions. ‘My Voice Was Heard But It Was Ignored’ is a gripping and eye-opening two-hander that explores black identity in a highly racialised world. Tensions are played out in real time via a fraught confrontation between a black teacher and student, locked in a classroom together, after the student is violently apprehended by the police.

We are so excited to develop this work with Kofi, and can’t wait to share further news about the production with you soon. Watch this space!

We are also delighted to announce our support of emerging writer Bea Webster as part of a partnership with Sphinx Theatre Company.

Red Ladder is one of fifteen Partners working with Sphinx Theatre to launch the Sphinx Lab: a brand new writers’ development programme for female playwrights.

We have nominated Bea Webster to take part in the programme, which will support fifteen female playwrights to receive a £1000 seed commission and attend the Lab, which aims to equip female playwrights with the information, skills and dramaturgy necessary to support the advancement of their careers.

Bea is a familiar face to Red Ladder, having played Kattrin in our 2018 production of ‘Mother Courage and Her Children’ – a role for which she was a Best Actress nominee in The Stage Debut Award 2019. Her previous writing includes ‘House of Ladies’ for On The Verge festival at the Citizens Theatre, and her published poem ‘Long Lost Lover’, which is written both in BSL and English. We are thrilled to be supporting Bea to further develop her craft!


Defining Red Ladder – with a little help!

Over the past year, we have been fortunate to work with the multi-national award-winning media agency M&C Saatchi, following securing in-kind marketing and communications support alongside our 2019 production of ‘Glory’ – in conjunction with the Home Office’s ‘Building a Stronger Britain’ initiative. The bulk of this support has involved staff training, planning sessions, and scoping out a new social media strategy. 

We had some really exhilarating and thoughtful discussions surrounding Red Ladder: what we want to achieve, who we want to connect with and how we want others to view us. It was heartening to learn the like-mindedness of the entire team, who rallied behind a handful of cornerstone attitudes and ideologies that we believe make Red Ladder – well – Red Ladder!!

A culminating project has been the production of two wonderfully reflective videos encapsulating these discussions. Both short films engagingly tell Red Ladder’s story, from different perspectives, succinctly conveying our mission, and celebrating all that we do and intend to build on.

Whilst we wait with bated breath for our industry to emerge from the grasp of Covid-19, we are delighted to share these films with you in the meantime. We invite you to join us as we appreciate the successes of the past, encourage hope for the future, and look forward to a time when we can welcome live audiences back to our shows once more.

We give you: ‘We Are Red Ladder’…

You can find the second video, ‘Support Red Ladder’, on our Why Support Us page.