Rod’s Blog 18.06.12
Here we are in production week for ‘Promised Land’ – and we have one final rehearsal tonight with an interview with The Today Programme for Radio 4. Of course this doesn’t guarantee an airing for us – it all depends what ‘news’ comes in – but it will be great to have a feature about us – another first for Red Ladder!
Last week I gave the actors licence to start ‘owning’ their characters more and playing – and they really flew! It is always a satisfying moment when you see people really gaining confidence in their abilities as actors and their scenes become authentic and truthful. The play has some rather unpleasant scenes showing football violence and intimidation and these scenes were difficult to watch because they were so realistic. This cast have really shown commitment and they have taken on new skills and been a joy to work with. The difficult thing is their real lives get in the way and so they can’t all attend rehearsals – we have had ONE rehearsal with the entire cast present. That’s not a moan from me – it is the nature of community theatre – everyone is volunteering and everyone has busy lives that don’t always leave room for rehearsing. I am really looking forward to seeing the set in place and everyone in costume, but production week is long and tiring – working days of 12 hours or more. We all need to take a patience drug this week! Technical rehearsals are a bit like sitting in the trenches – nothing happens for ages and then suddenly everything bursts into action and there doesn’t seem to be time to fit it all in! What I love about production week is seeing the other artists in the team come into their own – Tim Skelly working his magic with the lighting design and Tom Blackband making the sound work. It is hard to believe that we have rehearsed for ten Sundays – when I explained that was the commitment back in March it sounded like a lot of time – but it has slipped away fleetingly! Gulp. Of course, it is my job as director to always complain that we haven’t had enough rehearsal time!
Next week we start rehearsals for the re-make of ‘Sex and Docks and Rock & Roll’. I have never done this before – started rehearsing a show while another is still in the theatre. It is a bit mind-blowing. What is more mind-blowing is the fact that I am playing the role of Ronnie McDermott. Dean Nolan – our regular, ‘larger than life’ comic actor is playing the role of Harold in Kneehigh’s new show ‘Steptoe and Son’ so rather than rehearse a totally new actor in less than two weeks, I am stepping back on the boards for the first time since 2008 when I acted in Boff Whalley’s outdoor production of ‘Armley the Musical’. I am really looking forward to this – but also having butterflies about it. The play opens with Ronnie strolling around the audience in a pair of slippers and his vest and underpants. My frame is not quite as impressive as Mr Nolan’s but I do a good line in scouse banter – so while the underwear might be smaller, the quality of the chat should be high (famous last words). We are performing for Unite the Union at The Durham Miner’s Gala on July 12th – if you live up in the North east then come along. On the 13th (Friday 13th…oh dear) we are playing Easington Colliery Club – and I’m looking forward to that one even more. For anyone who didn’t see the show in 2010 the gist is this: the McDermott family are all Liverpool dock workers who are on strike in the famous strike of 1960. The National Union of Seamen is not being as militant as they need to be and a relative of the family (Paddy Neary – a real figure from the time) has formed a militant alternative called The Seamen’s Reform Movement). Although it is a comedy, the piece chimes with today and is a call-out to workers to support their unions and to stop them from softening under the blows rained down by the odious Mr Duncan-Smith. In today’s Guardian there is a report describing how IDS wants to attack organised labour. This government would go further than Thatcher and remove all workers’ rights – we have to fight back!
Rant over. Next time I blog I’ll let you know how the show went – and whether or not I should stick to my day job!
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.