Who we are - Red Ladder Theatre Company

Red Ladder Theatre Company

Who we are

Want to get to know us a bit better? Take a couple of minutes to watch our short film, ‘We Are Red Ladder’. This is what we’re about; the power of theatre – in our communities, for everyone.

Red Ladder is a radical theatre company with 50 years of history. The company is acknowledged as one of Britain’s leading national touring companies producing new theatre, contributing to social change and global justice.  Red Ladder is funded by Arts Council England and by Leeds City Council.

Founded in 1968 in London, the company has a colourful history rooted in the radical socialist theatre movement in Britain known as agitprop. Born into an era of riots, demonstrations and revolts, Red Ladder has grown up, kicking and screaming, into the 21st Century, where it continues to fight, to entertain, and to agitate in as equal measures as possible.

Our Vision

We make theatre about how we live now, and how we hope to live. The world has got to change, and the future is not yet written. The shared experience of theatre is about transformation and imagination, where we can collectively invent a better, kinder, fairer way to be.

Our Mission

We make theatre that gives a platform to voices that are rarely heard, and stories that are overlooked. Plays that invite you to lean in, identify, punch the air, laugh with the stranger next to you, cry in the dark, and want to take action.

We make theatre in Northern England but our world is huge and we can soar across borders. We are forward-looking, but not forgetful. We are full of heart, humour and big ideas.

We make new plays, empowering, supporting and inspiring writers and theatre artists to tell stories that start on their (often Northern, often working class) doorsteps and take radical leaps of imagination, challenging the systems that marginalise and oppress, and make inclusive, inquisitive, embracing, bracing, laughing, crying, thinking, drinking, dancing, singing theatre.

We will go wherever the audience is – to pubs and clubs, to housing estates and to theatres with velvet seats. We’ll meet you there, for a good night out that ends with you stepping back out into a world that now feels different, full of possibility, and capable of transformation. And has you singing all the way home.

To find out what you can do, come and see one of our performances, enrol on our training courses, or become a Red Ladder supporter.

Our work tours nationally and also we have curated a local circuit of non-theatre spaces such as working men’s clubs, sports and socials and some community spaces.

Are you a company planning on touring to non-traditional theatre spaces? We have published a ‘how to’ guide for companies wising to create their own local touring circuit here.

Defining Red Ladder: Our Vision, Mission and Values

Over the closing months of 2020, we carried out an extensive exercise to dig into Red Ladder’s purpose, ethos, and unique offer as a theatre company. This exercise has been integral to our current planning as we engage more deeply with the Investment Principles, particularly given the impetus placed on understanding how an organisation is perceived, by those both in and outside of it.

We gathered together and interrogated all the ways that the company talks about itself – across social media, the website, in funding applications, on press releases – as well as canvassing opinion amongst those who currently and have previously engaged with the company. At Board level, we had previously spoken about a desire to get better at expressing what we do, both accurately and in a way that represents the work the company has made in recent years, rather than what the company was 50 years ago. We aimed to identify the unifying strands across our activity, and develop a confidence in our own identity that can be clearly and proudly articulated to the world.

Alongside our new Vision and Mission, we were able to identify five strong Values that define Red Ladder’s unique position. They are as follows:

We are a New Writing company 

  • We give people breaks and take risks – a democratic company that gives people ways in.
  • The work is writer-led, and we work with, and give a platform to, a rich variety of individuals.

We challenge the idea of theatre, and who it is for

  • Theatre is not just a building – wherever the audience that we want to speak to reside, that is where we’ll go; if that means that we need to fit into a small space, then we’ll fit into a small space. If it means we need to fill a stage, we’ll fill a stage. 
  • It’s not about scale, it’s about reach. We take theatre to places that others can’t or won’t, and where it will be most beneficial. In order to fulfil this mission, we necessarily must make work in all sorts of shapes and sizes, so it is necessary that…

…we are chameleon-like

  • We are a company that refuses to play into arbitrary distinctions of scale. We won’t be put in a box, or play into the system – we’re unique in our ability to shapeshift. Sometimes we’ll play to 40 people, sometimes we’ll play to 1000. 
  • We are unique in that the piece of theatre you see at a Working Men’s Club will also be seen in a prestigious venue – it will be of the same, exceptionally high quality. 

We have a human heart

  • There is nothing more thrilling to us than when a piece of theatre we’ve made genuinely affects an individual – if it has made them feel represented, or opened their eyes to a new perspective.
  • We are the opposite of parachute theatre; we want to build relationships with people – and once welcomed in, we’re there to stay. 
  • We don’t judge success by just the numbers we have attending, but by how we’ve affected people.
  • Lots of people have Red Ladder in common – it connects people.

All of these feed into the fact that…

Equality and Justice are at the centre of all we do

  • We are in touch with issues that matter to people: what affects them now or, perhaps, what haunts them from the past. We wish to make a statement of mutual support and solidarity with the people whose stories we’re telling, and who see themselves represented on our stage.
  • We are a company trying to contribute to the creation of a fairer world, and every time we impact an individual – by making them feel represented, or making them think, or look in on themselves – we take a small step closer.
  • We want to be of benefit to the vulnerable in society. Our work highlights that the world is not a just place – and in doing so suggests that we can and should contribute to making it a fairer one.