Rod’s Blog 16.08.12
Rod’s Summer Blog
I’m all alone in the office after a manic month – everyone else is away on holiday and as soon as I have written this blog I am out of here too!!
The last time I wrote we were about to go into production week and technical rehearsals for ‘Promised Land’. As soon as we opened I went into rehearsal for ‘Sex and Docks and Rock n Roll’ – so I had to trust that everything was ready as far as ‘Promised Land’ was concerned. I had no worries – the team for ‘Promised Land’ were brilliant and the show was really successful. Every review was a rave and the audiences were really positive – the cast really deserved the success – they didn’t once take their foot off the gas and the show got better and better. Industry professionals said things like ’What amazing commitment’ and ‘Which actors were professional?’ which is praise indeed from people who tend to be very critical of work and usually expect the worst of a show which is described as a ‘community production’. I always feel a real sense of pastoral care when finishing a project like this – the people involved have given up a great deal of time and emotional investment and when it’s over there is always a huge hole left in their lives. The ‘Promised Land’ cast, or The ‘Landers’ as they have called themselves on Facebook (!) are an amazingly close gang and have supported each other in these weeks since the show closed. They have maintained their Facebook group and it is clear that lifelong friendships have been formed. It is really wonderful when theatre brings people together in this way – not as luvvies but as people with a shared experience and a shared goal in life. I would never encourage anyone to give up their day job and pursue an acting career (the word ‘career’ doesn’t really exist in this world!) but several lead actors in the Landers are very, very talented and I would employ them without hesitation (if the right role came along). The key thing for them to remember is that acting is all about rejection and so those that want to give it a go should make sure they have a trade or a flexible job to fall back on – by ‘fall back on’ I mean – do for most of their lives!!
Last week we took the remake of ‘Sex and Docks and Rock n Roll’ to the Durham Miners’ Gala – or the ‘Big Meetin’ as it is known up there. I have never been to the Gala and I was really inspired. It really is a gathering of the Left – and when you stand on the cricket field listening to the speeches of the big names you begin to feel that maybe there is hope after all. Well – I certainly felt a stirring in the chest when I listened to Mark Sewotka of PCS. His speech was all about us fighting back, of not taking the battering that we are suffering from the Cameron government. I’m afraid I was underwhelmed by Ed Miliband – the first Labour leader to speak to the Gala since Kinnock. Even though Miliband’s speech was greeted by rapturous applause from the party faithful, he didn’t actually say anything other than ‘please applaud me’. If I believed in party politics (which I don’t, obviously …read all my previous blogs!) then I would want strong leadership, but Miliband is weak. Weak because this is the one time when the Left could really attack the capitalists; it is a time when they are on their knees. The bankers have at last been exposed as crooks – and £13 Trillion – (I don’t even know how many noughts are on that number) has been squirreled away by the very rich to avoid taxes. What does Miliband do? He suggests to the unions that striking during the Olympics is ‘unhelpful’. Ed, you idiot, that is why workers go on strike! To disrupt. To inconvenience. To make the bosses stop and reverse their policies. If a strike was designed to be ‘helpful’ it wouldn’t really work, would it? FFS as the Twitter feed says. And even louder… WTF??
The gala is an amazing spectacle and our good friends at Unite the Union welcomed us proudly to the event. We were part of their ‘political school’ which was run prior to the gala and delegates were expected to attend our performance on the first evening. I’m always a bit nervous when people say that the delegates will be ‘expected to attend’. As it turned out, the audience loved the show – and I really enjoyed bantering with them before the show started – in my underpants and vest. I guess you know if an audience is going to like a show if you can get a smile or even a laugh out of them dressed in string vest and oversized Y fronts.
The next night we did a much smaller gig at the Easington Colliery Club.all the people from Durham we met the night before were warning us that Easington was a wild and dangerous place where the only audience we would get would be ‘pissheads’ and the wheels would be removed from our van. Of course – nothing could have been further from the truth. I have to admit that the woman who said she ‘hates scousers’ (when I chatted to her in vest and undies) made me think “Oh..here we go…” but with practised Scouse charm and wit I won her over until at the end of the show she told us she’d had a really good night out!
When we got back to Durham late that night we tumbled into the pre-Gala dinner that Unite had organised to find that they had been singing songs from ‘Big Society’ – with song sheets printed out and accompanied by the Unite the Union brass band! I get the feeling that Red Ladder and Unite will be working together again in the future!
Ok – a shortish blog and not too ranty – just an update really before I pack the family into our VW Transporter (not really a camper van …just a van really) and head off to the beach…any beach…as long as there are waves! Happy Summer everyone!
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.