Rod’s Blog 10.01.13
If I haven’t wished you a Happy New Year, dear reader, then I think today is the probably the last date when I can before it becomes a rather eccentric thing to say. The last time I blogged was in November when I had been working with students from Northern School of Contemporary Dance and I was all excited about the work. Since then I’ve been in a totally new headspace and preparing for the next two months or so which are manically busy.
After a day’s workshop at the end of November, I offered roles to four actors in our new national touring show, ‘The Thing About Psychopaths’ by Ben Tagoe. Finding the right cast is crucial to any project, but this time the task was made even more difficult by the fact that so many actors sent in their CV’s and headshots. I think the title helps – and Ben wrote really detailed character breakdowns. I had several hundred applications and managed to whittle these down to a short list of 25 actors who came to Leeds for the workshop. The standard in the room was exceptionally high and included some really experienced actors – one or two with television credits (apparently – I wouldn’t know – I try not to watch TV – it is a weapon of mass distraction).
We cast Shaun Cowlishaw as Noel. Shaun is newly graduated from Guildford School of Acting and is really excited to be embarking on his first national tour. Babajide Fado will be playing the double role of Ray and Emmanuel. Jide is a very experienced actor and was a powerful presence in the audition – I am really looking forward to working with him. Kyla Goodey will play the double role of Caroline and O’Boyle. Kyla has worked for Red Ladder three times before – she was Mona in ‘Sex and Docks and Rock & Roll’ and will be Mona again in our remake being performed at City Varieties in a couple of weeks, and she played Beatrice in last year’s ‘Big Society’. Kyla is someone I have known for many years – she started her career performing for Kneehigh Theatre and has worked many times with other Cornish companies as well as main house theatres. She also directs and has her own company Trifle Gathering. This project will be the first time we have worked together with Kyla playing a serious role and I am really looking forward to it.
Finally, the role of Michael went to Paul Fox – his Equity name is William but I can’t see him as a William! Paul did a really superb audition – which I am delighted about since Paul has not been to formal drama school and yet he is an absolute natural. In fact, he is suddenly breaking into the ‘business’ in quite an impressive way. After he played Nathan in ‘Promised Land’, Paul went on to get a decent role in ‘Coronation Street’ and he had two recall auditions for a West End musical. He definitely has a lot of talent and I am so pleased that after playing lead in our community production I am able to give him a paying job and a full national tour playing to twenty two venues. One of the aims of Red Grit and the community work I do is to try to help Leeds or Yorkshire based actors develop their skills and hopefully get work in the North without having to uproot and join the massed ranks of unemployed actors in London. This is an aim but not one that I can achieve very easily or very often. Paul is the fifth local actor to have worked unpaid with Red Ladder to go on to gain employment – that’s not many I admit – but it’s still quite an achievement in this highly competitive environment. Mind you – I suppose Paul playing a psychopath is a bit typecast – he is a life-long Leeds United fan after all!!
We go into the rehearsal room next week for the remake of ‘Sex and Docks and Rock & Roll’ – with me playing Ronnie McDermott again. We made the show for a two night tour last summer – one night at Durham Gala Theatre as part of the Miner’s Gala – and one night at Easington Coliery club. It is really exciting to be doing a proper run of shows – especially at The City Varieties. I was really envious last year when the company performed ‘Big Society’ there – and so the chance for me to actually play an audience there is really mouthwatering – I wonder if I’ll be the first scouser in the old theatre’s history to stand on that stage in my vest and underpants? At the end of the week we will then take the show to Croft’s Social Club in Liverpool – a working mens’ club that is right next to Everton Football Club’s Goodison Park. That will be a real test of the play – it was written to entertain a non-theatre-going audience – and if it works there it will work anywhere!
‘The Thing About Psychopaths’ goes into rehearsal on 4 February and then opens the national tour on 7 March at The Carriageworks Theatre in Leeds. If you come to see both ‘Sex and Docks’ and ‘Psychopaths’ this season you will be seeing the vast range of our work – from the sublime to the ridiculous – so we look forward to seeing some of you there!
About Rod: Rod became Artistic Director of Red Ladder Theatre Company in 2006, following his role as associate director at the Barbican Theatre in Plymouth. He has also ran The Hub Theatre School in Cornwall and been an actor with several companies including Kneehigh Theatre. Directing credits for Red Ladder include Where’s Vietnam?, Forgotten Things, Riot, Rebellion & Bloody Insurrection, Ugly, Sex & Docks & Rock ‘N’ Roll, Big Society! and Promised Land. Rod is both a life-long Liverpool supporter and a believer in Proudhon’s principles of anarchy – the two might be connected.