News - Page 2 of 8 - Red Ladder Theatre Company

Red Ladder Theatre Company


Red Ladder at 50: Exhibition

To mark our 50th year, the story of Red Ladder Theatre Company is being told in an exhibition at Central Library Leeds throughout June. We’re marking this milestone by reflecting on five decades as one of the UK’s longest running radical theatre companies.

Co-curated by artistic director Rod Dixon and Fiona Gell, RED LADDER THEATRE COMPANY: 50 YEARS OF RADICAL THEATRE (1968 – 2018) shares how Red Ladder has responded through each decade to the struggles and conflicts of the time.

The theatre company began in 1968 when a group of socialist political theatre-makers gathered in a house in Hackney to form a theatre collective called THE AGITPROP STREET PLAYERS. They aimed to make street theatre that would agitate for social change and bring down the capitalist system. Later re-named RED LADDER THEATRE COMPANY after a much-used red stepladder used as a prop for street performances, the company moved to Leeds in 1976.

Key moments are picked out in programmes, photos, costume and more – from the riots and rebellion of the 1960s to plays about ordinary folk taken into working men’s clubs and trade unions, and to present day as a nationally important company.

Rod Dixon says, “For fifty years Red Ladder Theatre Company has responded to the changing world. The exhibition reflects Red Ladder as a company of the moment, challenging issues and stories of the times –but at our core is a commitment to telling the stories of working class, reflecting unheard voices on our stages and making theatre that is relevant to ordinary people. The precarious life of a theatre company is as dramatic as the work we put onstage – but we are proud to be celebrating our 50th year as a Leeds company with a long history of making theatre for the many.”

RED LADDER THEATRE COMPANY: 50 years of Radical Theatre (1968 – 2018) is taking place in Room 700 at Central Library Leeds. The exhibition is accompanied by two events:

Join Red Ladder artistic director Rod Dixon talking about 50 years of Red Ladder at an exhibition opening on Thursday 7 June at 11am.

Rod Dixon and Chumbawhamba’s Boff Whalley discuss their artistic collaborations – including the forthcoming 50th anniversary production Mother Courage And Her Children – and making entertaining political work in a lunchtime talk on June 18 at 1pm. Book tickets here

Red Ladder’s 50th anniversary production Mother Courage and Her Children is taking place at Albion Electric warehouse in Leeds from 28 September – 20 October 2018. Tickets are on sale through West Yorkshire Playhouse box office on Tel: 0113 213 7700.

The Damned United Trailer!

Our new trailer for our co-production of The Damned United with the Leeds Playhouse is out! Featuring authentic footage of Elland Road from the 1970’s, taken from the West Yorkshire Police, mixed with some contemporary footage today featuring the brilliant Luke Dickson as Old Big ‘Ead himself. Give it a watch!

Audition for Mother Courage!

This October we are celebrating Red Ladder’s 50th birthday with a production of Bertolt Brecht’s Mother Courage and her Children, starring Pauline McLynn (Father Ted, Eastenders, Shameless, East is East, Samuel Beckett’s Happy Days….)

We need a community chorus who can sing well in character and move the audience along with the action. We want it to be representative of Leeds communities. We want you to be in it! 

Pauline McLynn is playing the iconic title role of Mother Courage, performing alongside a cast of eight brilliant actor-musicians. Chumbawamba‘s Boff Whalley is composing new songs and singer Beccy Owen is the musical director of this immersive show, which will be performed in Albion Electric warehouse in Hunslet, Leeds.

Mother Courage and Her Children is set during the Thirty Years War in the 17th Century – at the end of the medieval period and the beginning of Capitalism. The play is about how businesses makes profit out of war and the rest of us suffer. The play is about refugees and migrants, war crimes and cruelty. But the Lee Hall version we are doing is also very FUNNY!

We will ask a great deal of commitment from our chorus. They will perform every other night from September 27th to October 20th. Our community chorus will be performing alongside the cast – as part of the Mother Courage Company.

Come and audition! We are running several workshops, which will be friendly informal group auditions across four different locations and dates, as follows:

Monday 30th July, 6pm – 8pm Mandela Community Centre, Chapeltown Road, LS8 3HY

Wednesday, 1st August, 6pm – 8pm at First Floor, above Leeds Playhouse’s Costume Hire, St Peter’s Square, LS9 8AH

Thursday, 2nd August, 6pm – 8pm at Swarthmore Education Centre, 2-7 Woodhouse Square, Leeds LS3 1AD

We will be looking for over 18s with:

• Group singing experience in a choir, band, etc.
• The ability to take musical direction
• A willingness to explore performance and to develop new skills
• Enough availability to fully commit to both rehearsals and performances

You will:
• Have fun
• Learn new skills
• Make new friends
• Grow in confidence

What to bring:
• Yourself, in comfortable clothing and footwear
• Drinks and a packed lunch

Call 0113 245 5311 or email Rod Dixon on to book your place at one of our audition workshops.

We look forward to seeing you there!

Rod & the Red Ladder team


We’re very pleased to announce the full cast for Mother Courage and her Children.

This wholly immersive staging of Bertolt Brecht’s epic and timeless masterpiece invites audiences to follow in the steps of Brecht’s fearless matriarch, as Mother Courage hauls her tinkering wagon of junk through crackling battlefields and bombed-out villages – echoing the modern-day refugee’s universal displacement.

Pauline McLynn leads this talented ensemble in Rod Dixon’s production, which features music composed by Boff Whalley (Chumbawhama) and musical direction/arrangement by Beccy Owen.

Tickets are on sale now for Red Ladder’s 50th anniversary production, taking place at Albion Electric warehouse from 28 September – 20 October. 

An Audience With Pauline McLynn

As part of the Leeds Library’s 250th anniversary programme, join Rod Dixon, Red Ladder Theatre Company’s Artistic Director, in conversation with esteemed Irish actor and author Pauline McLynn, most famous for her comic role as ‘Mrs Doyle’ in the Channel 4 series Father Ted.

Pauline will chat with Rod about her upcoming role in Brecht’s epic play Mother Courage – to be Red Ladder’s 50th anniversary production – and will reflect on her experiences as an actor beyond her fame in Father Ted having starred in numerous other TV, film and stage roles.

We’ll also hear about Pauline’s passion for animal rights, her success as a novelist, and wherever else conversation takes us!

The audience will have the opportunity to ask Pauline questions in the second half of the event.

Tuesday May 15, 7.30pm (1 hour)
Tickets for this exclusive event are free but limited; prompt booking is recommended. Book HERE.


Pauline McLynn will take the lead role in Red Ladder’s 50th anniversary production MOTHER COURAGE AND HER CHILDREN, we’re thrilled to announce. An immersive production of Bertolt Brecht’s anti-war play will be staged from 27th September – 20th October at Albion Electric warehouse, Leeds – where we mounted our acclaimed production The Shed Crew.

Performing with Red Ladder for the first time, Pauline McLynn is to take on the role of Brecht’s buffoonish but ruthless Mother Courage in artistic director Rod Dixon’s production, using the translation by Lee Hall. The celebrated Irish actor and author – who is best known for her award-winning comedy role as Mrs Doyle in the TV series Father Ted – will lead a company of actors and actor-musicians, and a chorus comprising refugee and asylum seekers who are based in West Yorkshire.

On her forthcoming role, Pauline McLynn says
Mother Courage is one of the great, iconic roles and to have this opportunity to play her with Red Ladder and Rod Dixon is a particular thrill for me. I am excited to introduce whole new audiences to Brecht, such a challenging and brilliant playwright who always provokes and enriches us with his work. I am an actor who has always had a leaning for the Left and therefore Red Ladder and myself are a very natural match. I can’t wait to get started on this sprawling delight.”

In our 50th year, MOTHER COURAGE marks the first production of a classic play to be produced by Red Ladder Theatre Company. Experienced as a promenade piece in an urban warehouse setting, it will feature musical arrangements by long-term collaboration and Chumbawamba founder member Boff Whalley (BIG SOCIETY!/WRONG ‘UN) and composer Beccy Owen (PROMISED LAND/WE’RE NOT GOING BACK).

Integrating a professional cast and a community chorus of refugee and asylum seekers, Rod Dixon’s provocative staging will re-examine Brecht’s 20th century classic for today; asking urgent questions about migrancy, displacement, fear of immigration and the effects of war in our time.

Rod Dixon says

This is the first time in 50 years that Red Ladder will have staged a classic, and to me, it is the perfect play for our troubled times. Brecht is one of the most radical and experimental of playwrights from the last century and my ambition is to use this brilliant piece of theatre to counter the narrative of the right wing media that refugees from ‘there’ do not need to be ‘here’.
Mother Courage is a gigantic role and I am particularly excited that Pauline is to play her. Pauline brings a rich experience of many characters on stage and screen to this production, and I am sure audiences will be thrilled by her performances.

Tickets for Mother Courage will be on sale from May 1, when you can book via our website or call West Yorkshire Playhouse box office on 0113 213 7700. 

Leeds Rhinos’ Jamie Jones-Buchanan joins the board of Red Ladder – and is set to tread the boards in Playing The Joker

Leeds Rhinos’ Jamie Jones-Buchanan is joining the board of Red Ladder Theatre Company as it begins its 50th year. He’s also performing as Doorman Dave in Playing The Joker, a comic play by Anthony Clavane about rugby league commentator Eddie Waring, which Red Ladder will be touring from February. Tickets are on sale NOW.

What will you be bringing to Red Ladder as a board member?

I want to bring ideas and enthusiasm to Red Ladder.  As a professional sportsman I have met many people both in and out of Leeds and I hope to join dots and bring people together.  I want to inspire people in Leeds with the narratives that are closest to them.

You’re also performing in Playing The Joker. What are you most looking forward to in this?

Playing the Joker is a part of Rugby League history, Rugby league has been the vehicle on which I have lived my life.  Bringing the two together is exciting.  It also helps me to be involved and better understand Red Ladder and those people connected to Red Ladder. Playing The Joker references the “Watersplash Final” which coincidently also celebrates its 50th anniversary this year.

Was performing something you’ve always wanted to do or did it come as a new experience through Red Ladder?

Its less about “performing” and more about storytelling.  I love stories and I enjoy telling them.  I have been public speaking and acting the goat for rugby league media for a while but I’d never performed in a formal context with a theatre company.

Red Ladder does a lot of work in breaking down barriers about ‘who theatre is for’ and making it accessible to everyone. Is this something that is important to you?

The fact that Red ladder makes theatre accessible to everyone is fantastic because it becomes a hub for people to fulfil their individual potential whilst being a part of the Red Ladder community.

Making the performing arts accessible not only invites talent that not been seen before, the togetherness brings about community and a sense of well-being.

I love stories and I am passionate about telling them so being linked to a company who gives Leeds a voice makes lots of sense.

Tell us a bit about your professional debut in Leeds Lads. How was the experience? 

The experience was exciting, emotional and energy sapping – it was very much like playing a Super league game as far as concentration goes and working with a team focused on precision.  It brought about as many / if not more nerves, but the gratification at the end of a good performance was like winning an important game.

I told the members during the Leeds Lads period that the completion of rehearsals and the performances was comparable to going on a challenge cup run and winning at Wembley.

Playing The Joker will be touring from February. 

21 February, Belle Isle Working Men’s Club.

4 March, Stanningley Amateur Rugby League Club.

9 March, Hunslet Hawks Rugby League Club.

24 March, Castleford Tigers. 

Further dates TBC, please visit here>> 

The Damned United returns to West Yorkshire Playhouse

The stage adaptation of THE DAMNED UNITED is returning to West Yorkshire Playhouse following its sell-out world premiere at the venue in 2016.

Red Ladder and West Yorkshire Playhouse are teaming-up again to bring this critically acclaimed play by Anders Lustgarten, adapted from David Peace’s best-selling novel, back onto the Courtyard stage for two weeks from 27 March – 7 April.

The Damned United will then hit the road across the city as Red Ladder Local and West Yorkshire Playhouse take it on a tour of community venues across Leeds.

The Damned United was a sell-out success at the Playhouse in 2016 with over 8,000 tickets sold. In this stripped back and freshly reimagined new version of the original production, a cast of three actors bring to life David Peace’s compelling novel about Brian Clough‘s doomed 44-day period as manager of Leeds United.

Tickets can be booked for the West Yorkshire Playhouse performances NOW – and watch this space for details of the community tour.


Red Ladder Awarded PHF Funding

Red Ladder Theatre Company has been awarded £36,000 from Paul Hamlyn Foundation to further its Northern Social Circuit programme, addressing under representation in theatre for people from working class backgrounds. The grant from Paul Hamlyn Foundation supports its development over two years – and follows funding from Arts Council England’s Strategic Touring Fund to originate the Northern Social Circuit in 2016, which now forms a core part of Red Ladder’s programming.

We will continue to produce new work under the header RED LADDER LOCAL, taking newly commissioned or specifically adapted new writing by national and Yorkshire-based writers into non-traditional venues such as football and rugby clubs, pubs and working men’s clubs. It introduces a Community Skills Development Programme which will support participating venues to build skills and knowledge to curate and present an arts programme for their own communities. This includes receiving access to resources and mentoring from Red Ladder and three hub venues: West Yorkshire Playhouse, The Civic, Barnsley and CAST Doncaster.

Our producer Chris Lloyd says,

We’re delighted that this grant from Paul Hamlyn Foundation will allow us to further Red Ladder Local as a body of work that takes new plays into non-theatre venues; removing barriers that can prevent some people from accessing theatre – whether that’s pricing, location or perception of who theatre is ‘for’. An important facet of the award is to support the non-traditional venues to select work of their choice, so in addition to picking from Red Ladder’s body of work, they will develop the skills and resources to curate cultural programmes for their own communities.

Red Ladder has been championing access to the arts for all for approaching 50 years and we’re thrilled with the support of Paul Hamlyn Foundation to be piloting this approach, addressing the inequality in engaging with and accessing the arts

Moira Sinclair, Chief Executive of Paul Hamlyn Foundation says,

“The Skills Development Programme complements the wider work that Red Ladder Theatre Company are doing to open up the arts in the North. We hope that by strengthening the support that is available for local people to be linked to local venues, more communities will not only feel involved in the work but actually be a part of it. The skills gained by participants in the programme will help community spaces to operate as vibrant non-traditional theatre venues. This, together with the efforts to take theatre to unusual places through strategic touring, will create opportunities for even more people to widen and deepen their relationship with the arts.”


Meet The Shed Crew!

With THE SHED CREW’s run cruising along at Albion Electric’s warehouse in Leeds,LS10, we introduce some of the stellar cast bringing this much needed story to life. We have now sold out all evening performances (tickets remain for the three matinees only)!But fear not,due to popular demand we have added an additional performance on Sunday 1st October, 4pm. More details and to book tickets via West Yorkshire Playhouse here.

Adam Foster – Urban


Were you familiar with Bernard Hare’s book before coming to The Shed Crew?

Yes I knew the book and had read it when it came out.  I loved it then and more so now.

In five words – what is The Shed Crew?

Family, Frantic, Fuelled, Flippin’ stupendous.

How well do you remember the 90s, what stands out in your memory? 

I was lucky enough to grow up in the 90’s, I have many firsts that happened in that decade.  The imagery and sounds stick with me.  There’s too many to mention but..  Jungle Music, Stones Bitter, 20/20, Clarks Wallabees, wanting to be a skateboarder, Levis, good football, bad football, laughing, crying, good coats, hip hop, French films, records, Ralph Lauren and Lacoste (and not being to afford it!), Paul Calf, MTV Unplugged Videos, politics, hope, despair… lots!

Favourite 90s tune?

Oooh so hard, so many, not favourite but one that comes to mind straight away The Verve Bittersweet Symphony, video is an iconic memory.  Roni Size –  Heroes.  I can have 2 surely..

Favourite 90s film?

La Haine and Last of the Mohicans, again so many, if I had to choose La Haine.


Liz Simmons – Trudi


In five words – what is The Shed Crew?

Honest, shocking, funny, important and raw.

What’s surprised you the most during the rehearsal process?

How fast the story moves, how fleeting the moments within it are.

What for you is the most striking or appealing thing about this story?

The fact that its true and the great big colourful characters.

How well do you remember the 90s, what stands out in your memory?

My sisters perm and quiff,  boys with curtains and how fit this made them look. Ace of Base.

Worst 90s outfit or item of clothing you used to wear?

Bright lime green Kappa jacket.


Shireen Farkhoy – Thieving Little Simpkins/Pixie/Teezer

012 small

Were you familiar with Bernard Hare’s book before coming to The Shed Crew?

I met with Bernard Hare many years ago before I trained at Bristol Old Vic to discuss the film.  I was blown away by the book because I was working with rough sleepers with Simon on the Streets and the book, captured, so poetically the lives of rootless people living in Leeds, that are so often hidden in the shadows.

What is their biggest strength?

The biggest strength of all these characters are their humour, their resilience and their adaptability. You don’t survive in that world without a dose of nouse.

What for you is the most striking or appealing thing about this story?

The most appealing thing about this story is for the audience to go away with a sense of what it’s like to grow up without some of the support structures we take for granted.

Favourite 90s tune?

My favourite 90s tune is probably Bills, Bills, Bills but for me, the 90s really were the best!

Worst 90s outfit or item of clothing you used to wear?

Shiny cycling shorts, no doubt!


Tanya Vital – Pinky/Greta


What’s surprised you the most during the rehearsal process?

How far removed this kind of world is for some, even for some of those who lived in the area at the time.

What for you is the most striking or appealing thing about this story?

For me it’s so relatable. The era, everything.  I knew/know people like Urban.  I knew know people like Greta and many of the other characters., some are still around, stuck in that world and some sadly are not around anymore. The life they lead I imagine seems too farfetched to be reality for some, but for many it’s nothing short of normal. That’s the appeal for me. The story doesn’t try to either sensationalise or make apologies. It is what it is.

What do you think the site-specific staging will lend to The Shed Crew?

There are certain stories that don’t belong in a beautifully lit, warm black box with velvet chairs. This is one of those stories. It’s not poverty porn, in the sense of ‘oh lets go to the theatre to see how the poor people live’ from a distance. It’s the kind of story where you either need to be fully immersed and open for a journey, or go watch something else.

How well do you remember the 90s, what stands out in your memory?

I remember it well. Spliffy/Eclipse jackets, Sweater Shop, Tribe perfume, plastic dummies, FUBU, pagers, video shops, Fun House, dial up internet, The Word on a Friday Night. I was there man!

Favourite 90s tune?

The 90’s was such a pivotal moment for music, a lot of genres were birthed. I was into rave so Liquid’s Sweet Harmony is definitely the big tune, they keep sampling it in new music. Jungle, Prodigy’s early stuff, New Jack Swing and Piano House Music were all my favourites.