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Red Ladder Theatre Company



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

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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.

The Shed Crew at Leeds Central Library

We are delighted that Leeds Central Library will be hosting a conversation with Rod Dixon (Artistic Director of Red Ladder Theatre Company) and Kevin Fegan (writer of the stage production THE SHED CREW) plus special guests.

Rod and Kevin will be discussing the subjects and wider issues depicted in the play, and there will be the opportunity for the audience to ask Rod and Kevin questions.

Kevin formed a close relationship with Bernard Hare (author of Urban Grimshaw and The Shed Crew), and his playscript has been inspired by Bernard’s original memoir, set in 1990s Leeds in the area of East End Park.

Rod has been at the helm of Red Ladder for over a decade, but this project is a unique challenge for the company, both in scope and scale. Rod is extremely excited to bring this incredible, poignant, and vital tale to a new audience, to be performed in the unusual and atmospheric surroundings of Albion Electrics Warehouse, LS10.

Kevin is also launching a production of ‘The Ruck’ at Lawrence Batley Theatre on Friday 15 September 2017, before the show embarks on a regional tour. He also has “Down The Line” and “Bess – the Commoner Queen” opening at The Guildhall Theatre, Derby before commencing on a national tour.

Wednesday 27 September 2017 at 1pm in Room 700, Leeds Central Library

This event is free but advance booking is required. 

Book Here>>

The Damned United Heads to London!

We are thrilled to announce that following a stomping month-long run at this year’s Edinburgh Festival Fringe (2 – 28 Aug, Pleasance Courtyard), THE DAMNED UNITED continues its UK-wide tour this autumn with a week-long run at Pleasance Islington, in the heart of London.

Down the stairs… Along the corridor… Round the corner… Into the dressing room… HIS dressing room. Hateful, hateful place Spiteful, spiteful place. Dirty, dirty Leeds. 1974. Brian Clough, the enfant terrible of British football, tries to redeem his career and reputation by winning the European Cup with his new team. Leeds United. The team he has openly despised for years, the team he hates and which hates him. Don Revie’s Leeds. Adapted from David Peace’s brilliant and ingenious novel, The Damned United takes you inside the tortured mind of a genius slamming up against his limits, and brings to life the beauty and brutality of football, the working man’s ballet.

More Details Here>>

And why not spend 3 minutes with author of the critically acclaimed novel (of the same name) that inspired Red Ladder’s stage adaptation, David Peace. Six Questions for David Peace>>


Presenting The Shed Crew!

A stage play in verse by Kevin Fegan; adapted from the book URBAN GRIMSHAW AND THE SHED CREW by Bernard Hare

21 September – 1 October: Albion Electric warehouse, Leeds, LS10 1PR.

Age guidance: 16+


We were totally off the lead, we took care of our own needs and we grew like rampant weeds in the financial flower-bed of the North. Yes, we were Thatcher’s illegitimate bastards but we didn’t need saving, we were children of the rave scene and we knew how to party in the graveyard of Leeds.’

Take a trip back to the techno-thumping 1990s and join THE SHED CREW in Ashtrayland, home of the damned, in an immersive large-scale performance unfolding all around in the vast Albion Electric warehouse. Author Bernard Hare’s ground-breaking 2005 book Urban Grimshaw and the Shed Crew is adapted for the stage for the first time by playwright Kevin Fegan, as Red Ladder Theatre Company supported by West Yorkshire Playhouse present this darkly funny memoir about former social worker ‘Chop’ and his remarkable bond with The Shed Crew.

When Chop meets charismatic Urban – an illiterate 12-year-old but with a real talent for words, and a penchant for glue-sniffing and firebombing – he’s brought into the inner-circle of The Shed Crew: a posse of dispossessed kids: runaways and joyriders, seeking sanctuary in a shed from the mean streets of their inner-city estate. When mum’s a junkie, your dad might as well be dead and grown-ups are all nonces, grasses and greedy-bastards, The Crew is the only family you need.

Award-winning playwright Kevin Fegan (OBAMA THE MAMBA/SLAVE) has adapted Hare’s searingly honest memoir into an ingenious new play which captures the explosive energy of this extraordinary story.

He says, “Chop and Urban’s relationship is like a buddy movie: a strange pairing of a middle-aged man and a 12-year-old boy who go on a wild trip, with the Shed Crew as its chorus. Their story explodes like a firework, and I needed to capture the energy of these feral kids. It’s the warts and all honesty that I most admire, and the humanity that you warm to – Bernard Hare tells the good and the bad in his book because that’s the truth; he includes himself in that. It’s not about how we can go marching in and help – it’s what we can take from these kids and their experiences. There’s a lot in The Shed Crew for the rest of us to learn.”

THE SHED CREW is directed by artistic director Rod Dixon and performed by a company of eight northern actors: Jamie Smelt (Chop); Adam Foster (Urban); James Lewis (Sparky/Frank); Lladel Bryant (Skeeter/Sam/Shed Crew); Shireen Farkhoy(Thieving Little Simpkins/Pixie/ Teezer), Tanya Vital (Pinky/Greta), Leanne Rowley (Molly/Stella/Kara/Natasha); Liz Simmons (Trudi).  

Author Bernard Hare is the son of a mining family, and returned to his home estate in Leeds in the 1990s after becoming disillusioned working as a social worker in London. It’s here that he met ‘Urban’ and was introduced to The Shed Crew – a group of dispossessed children who had fallen through the cracks, let down by the system. Often colluding in their wildness – but the only grown-up that they trust –  ‘Chop’ became their unlikely mentor, introducing these kids to the arts, and learning far more from them in return. Hare wrote Urban Grimshaw and The Shed Crew after Fergal Keane shot a notorious BBC documentary in the area; inspiring him to write his memoir to show the reality of life for people that had been socially excluded, and giving a voice to the voiceless.

Twenty years on from the events of the book, Red Ladder Theatre Company is presenting the world premiere staging of this acclaimed work of literature. It is partnering with Simon on the Streets and working with the Leeds Poverty Truth Commission to work with communities and start a conversation about extreme poverty. An artistic outreach programme is taking place and Red Ladder is making THE SHED CREW as accessible as possible, tailoring some performance times around the specific needs of community groups.

Rod Dixon says, “There have been massive leaps forward and huge changes since Bernard Hare’s book was written, and we’re not looking back to the past in bringing this incredible artwork to the stage. As one of Britain’s leading radical theatre companies this story is one that Red Ladder still needs to tell – as vast sections of society across Britain exist in extreme poverty; forgotten communities living parallel lives in austerity against the glossy veneer of commerce and consumerism.  We’re thrilled to have the Albion Electrics warehouse as a venue in which we will immerse people into this world; one from which we can all learn about ‘survival’ and family and the power of humanity and the arts.”

Tickets for The Shed Crew go on sale today (Monday 17 July, 11am) and can be booked through West Yorkshire Playhouse on Tel: 0113 213 7700 /

Red Ladder will re-enter Arts Council England’s National Portfolio

We are delighted to announce that Red Ladder Theatre Company will re-enter Arts Council England’s National Portfolio.

Artistic director, Rod Dixon, says,

“This is fantastic news; the best possible outcome as Red Ladder heads into our 50th year. We see this as a great vote of confidence from Arts Council England in what we’ve achieved through a challenging time – but one in which we’ve thrived; through passion and dedication for what we do, and with the overwhelming support of our fans and peers.

Through project grants, creative partnerships and the backing of donors and creative collaborators, we’ve realised our ambitions and delivered a really successful body of work. We now have the funding to build on this with a bold and exciting new programme of work, taking us into our 50th year as a radical arts company that is committed to making theatre for the many, not the few.

We intend to further our touring work, taking new writing into communities where there traditionally is low engagement with the arts; and we have a number of productions in the pipeline as we commission and produce relevant plays that highlight injustice and drive social change. We remain committed to nurturing diverse artistic voices by removing barriers that far too often prevent new talent from developing in the arts. With this four-year funding and with the continued support of our fans, collaborators and Ladderistas – who are so vital to what we do – we’re looking forward to putting these plans into action for our milestone year, and our future.”

Red Ladder looks forward to delivering its artistic programme as a National Portfolio organisation once more, and to announce plans for its 50th anniversary in 2018.

Ladderista Membership Scheme Launch!

Come and join us as we launch our new fundraising membership scheme: the Ladderistas!

The Ladderistas initiative is looking to build upon the success of our 2014 Save Red Ladder Campaign and help us reach our 50th year in 2018. So, Thursday 2nd March from 7.30pm we will be at the Black Swan on Call Lane, Leeds to tell you all about the scheme and what we’re planning leading up to our birthday and how you can get involved! There will be refreshments plus, you will be able to catch a performance of Wrong ‘Un!

In 2015 we very nearly ceased to exist, so by becoming a Ladderista, you would be helping us to reach our 50th year and to continue to make great, necessary theatre long beyond it.

Entry is free but to help us gauge refreshment requirements it would be great if you could let us know if you were coming via the Eventbrite link but it will be possible just to turn  so come and join us to find out more. But places are strictly limited, so please click here to reserve your place!

We look forward to seeing you there!

Book Here>>

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