Cheryl Martin joins Red Ladder Theatre Company as new Artistic Director
We are thrilled to welcome theatre director and writer Cheryl Martin as our new Artistic Director from January 2024, following Rod Dixon’s decision to leave the company after his 17-year tenure as our artistic leader.
Alongside her work writing and directing award-winning theatre productions, Cheryl has also fulfilled a variety of roles including supporting writers and practitioners at Contact Theatre, Traverse Theatre Edinburgh, and Oldham Coliseum. Cheryl has also worked with Community Arts Northwest on a series of community plays, devised with, and starring mostly women refugees and asylum seekers.
In 2015 she co-founded LGBTQ+ Global-Majority performance arts company Black Gold Arts, a celebration in choreography, writing, directing and cabaret, which was part of the Eurovision cultural festival. Black Gold Arts recently won the Best Event category at the Manchester Culture Awards for its free outdoor arts festival at The Whitworth in 2022.
In addition to being an Edinburgh Fringe Total Theatre assessor and judge, Cheryl was also Co-Artistic Director of Manchester’s grassroots Global-Majority-led publisher and writer development company Commonword and is Co-Director of Manchester Pride’s Candlelight Vigil.
Fiona Gell, Co-Chair of Red Ladder’s Board of Trustees said: “This is a historic moment for the company. We could not be more delighted that Cheryl will be joining as our new Artistic Director. We’re excited to see how the company will evolve under her dynamic artistic leadership, as she is an extraordinary practitioner with a great deal of experience and a wealth of ideas. Together with the Red Ladder team, the company will continue to play a leading role in developing compelling productions, with social justice and unheard voices at their heart. We would also like to thank Rod Dixon for his amazing 17-year contribution and wish him well in his new venture.”
Following the announcement of her appointment Cheryl Martin, Artistic Director of Red Ladder Theatre Company, said: “For me this is THE dream job! To be able to work with a company with so much history and reach into so many communities. Red Ladder is always shape-shifting, evolving, and changing its approach. A place where all the plays are new ways to connect with a working-class audience, where those connections are cherished, and where every show, the staff and the board, are dedicated to finding and amplifying the voices and stories of people who are so often unsupported.
“I feel incredibly lucky. I get to develop artists, to look for new audiences and the people and shows that will appeal to them, and I get to direct every now and then. I get to work with a team who are passionate about what they believe in and deliver a massive amount of compelling work. Of course, it’s a dream job!”
Emma McDowell, Co-Chair of Red Ladder’s Board of Trustees, said: “The working group managing the recruitment process felt such an incredible amount of responsibility of doing right by this great company and the work of the team past and present.
“Red Ladder has such a rich history of addressing critical social issues, pushing creative boundaries by producing entertaining and engaging theatre, supporting creative practitioners and working with local communities. We’d like to pass on our thanks to all those who applied and who supported the recruitment process from the beginning, and to Arts Council England for their continued support.”
Find out more about our new Artistic Director
Since her very first theatre job as Writer-in-Residence for community and theatre-in-education company Pit Prop in Leigh, Lancashire, Cheryl Martin has been telling stories not usually heard in theatres.
From her earliest work, writing an award-winning musical set on Oldham’s Tommyfield Market [Heart & Soul, Oldham Coliseum, Manchester Evening News Award for Best Community Play] to creating an early immersive exploration of the Amritsar Massacre [Dhalta Suraj (The Sun Sets), Pit Prop, Bolton], to adapting slave narratives for BBC Radio 4 [Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl, Harriet Jacobs] or classics like Howard Sackler’s The Great White Hope or James Baldwin’s Amen Corner for BBC World Service, she’s always been drawn to bringing things society wants to bury to the surface. I am because we are, written for Contact Theatre in Manchester  continued this line in Cheryl’s work, delving into the experience of black Africans living with HIV in Manchester, campaigning to lessen stigma. Cheryl’s solo show Alaska was part of A Nation’s Theatre, and the 2019 Wellcome Collection’s Festival of Minds and Bodies and Summerhall Edinburgh Fringe, and the film One Woman [Unlimited Wellcome Partnership commission], based on a solo show, toured festivals including the Unlimited Festival at the Southbank Centre, Barcelona’s L’Altre Festival, and Edinburgh’s 2021 Summerhall Digital Fringe.
As a director, she got her start at Contact Theatre [Manchester] in the Arts Council England’s national programme Live and Direct for emerging black and Asian theatre directors. And she was lucky enough to get a job at Contact a couple of years later, as Associate Director, New Writing/New Work, running that Live and Direct masterclass series for three years, as well as creating a Spoken Word series of labs to help writers create unconventional theatre, running a Young Writers Festival and residencies, incubating new companies, a popular scratch night, Flip the Script, and seed commissions and R&Ds and a lot more.
Contact also looked for new voices not usually heard or seen, from communities still scarce in the theatre world – white working-class, LGBTQ+, Global Majority, women, disabled artists. She also won another Manchester Evening News Award, this time as a director for women-in-prison drama Iron by Rona Munro [Working Girls, Contact; MEN Award for Best Studio Production]. She took all that with her in her work: finding the then-new working-class writer Alan Bissett in his first theatre play, The Ching Room [Oran Mor/Traverse, nominated for Critics’ Awards for Theatre in Scotland]; co-directing a Fringe-First-winning series of breakfast snapshot-of-the-nation plays, The World is Too Much [Traverse].
Back in Manchester, Cheryl spent eight years working with Community Arts Northwest on a series of community plays devised with and starring mostly women refugees and asylum seekers, culminating in the Lloyd’s Bank Regional Theatre Award-winning Rule 35 [CAN], in which the audience became refugees in an immersive show in which the refugee and asylum-seeker women played immigration detention guards.
Her most recent directing work testifies to the wide variety of styles and subjects Cheryl loves to work with: This Town [Contact, Derby Playhouse, touring] by young white working-class writer Rory Aaron; Orpheus & Eurydice [R&D, HOME, Manchester] by young non-binary Global Majority writer Maz Hedgehog and looking at what a butch-femme relationship might feel like if it were happening among gods and nymphs and mortals right now and Dominoes and Dahlias (+ Oware!), [Royal Exchange, touring since May 2022 and still going], devised with and starring Caribbean and African Elders. The latter has just won the award for ‘Best Age-Friendly Outreach’ in the Fantastic for Families Awards run by the Family Arts campaign. They were joint winners with Doncaster Cast in a strong field of six nominees. Cheryl also recently worked on The Walk: A Sleeping Child, the launch of the giant puppet Little Amal [MIF 2021], about the nightmare journey of a refugee child, and made it work even though the puppet wasn’t there!
Cheryl was writer-in-residence at Oldham Coliseum and worked as a director at the Royal Exchange and the Traverse. In 2015 she founded LGBTQ+ Global-Majority performance arts company and registered charity Black Gold Arts (BGA) with choreographer Darren Pritchard and producer Jayne Compton.
BGA started with only £1000 for a whole festival and grew to a week-long celebration with 33 national venues and companies coming to an Industry Day, along with masterclasses in choreography, writing, directing, plus a cabaret the very next year. BGA’s weekend outdoor takeover of Manchester’s Whitworth Gallery has just won the Manchester Culture Award for Best Event, and last May they were part of the Eurovision cultural festival.
She also served as an Edinburgh Fringe Total Theatre assessor and judge, and as Co-Artistic Director of Manchester’s grass-roots, Global-Majority-led publisher and writer development company Commonword, which got her theatre career started by recommending her for that first Pit Prop residency. Cheryl is a Co-Director of Manchester Pride’s Candlelight Vigil with Kate O’Donnell [TransCreative Artistic Director] and Nathaniel Hall [It’s A Sin, The First Time, Dibby Theatre Artistic Director] and loves working on it every year.
Red Ladder Theatre Company Recruiting for a New Artistic Director
As Rod Dixon is leaving Red Ladder after 17 successful years, for an exciting new adventure in Scotland, we are looking for an Artistic Director to develop and deliver the artistic vision for the company.
Red Ladder is looking to recruit a new Artistic Director who will lead in developing and delivering the artistic vision of the company and take it forward with dynamism and energy, whilst remaining true to the company’s mission and core values as a new writing company.
The Artistic Director will work closely with the Executive Producer to ensure the operational and financial health of the company. Our ideal candidate is someone who is passionate about positive social change, environmental and global justice and who understands the role of the arts in delivering this.
Red Ladder is looking for someone who wants to challenge the idea of theatre and who it is for, who creates enjoyable and enriching experiences for audiences and communities. Someone who will play a central role in defining the future of playwriting and theatre-making in this country, holding writers and other creative practitioners firmly at its centre.
The Theatre Company is interested to hear from Directors, Writers, Producers or other theatre practitioners who have the expertise to deliver a compelling, ambitious and exciting artistic vision across the entire of Red Ladder’s programme of work.
The full job pack, audio and large text version are below. Applications are invited in the first instance to submit a CV AND Covering Letter and sent to email@example.com.
In addition to your application, we ask all applicants to fill out our anonymous Equal Opportunities Monitoring Form which can be accessed via the Red Ladder Website.
Closing date for applications is 11.59pm on Monday 18 September.
In the first instance, individuals and partnerships are invited to submit a CV and a cover letter to the Artistic Direction Working Group by an email to firstname.lastname@example.org
The covering letter should answer the following:
- Why are you interested in Red Ladder Theatre Company, and the role of the Artistic Director?
- How do you fit/relate to the essential criteria as outlined in the person specification and job description?
- What does radical theatre mean to you?
We welcome written or audio applications (CV and covering letter) as follows:
- Written – CV and a letter. The covering letter should be no more than 2 sides of A4.
- Audio – Your covering letter and/or CV can be in the form of an audio version. The covering letter audio should be no more than 5 minutes.
In addition to your application, we ask all applicants to fill out our anonymous Equal Opportunities Monitoring Form which can be accessed via the Red Ladder Website.
The recruitment pack and application process has been led by an Artistic Direction Working Group (ADWG), made up of Board members and working closely with the staff team. A wide range of artists, theatre-makers, arts and community leaders, company stakeholders, participants and friends have also been consulted about the future artistic direction of the company and have greatly informed the process
The recruitment pack gives a clear indication of what Red Ladder is looking for in candidates. While the role is full-time, Red Ladder is open to job share and co-leadership applications if it matches the needs of the company. Additionally, it is not expected for all applicants to fit 100% of the criteria outlined in the job description and person specification; and the company is keen to hear from people who think that they have the skills, passion and ambition to be the next Artistic Director. Red Ladder is actively encouraging applications from those with marginalised lived experiences.
Co-chair of Red Ladder Theatre Company, Emma McDowell, said: “We have taken our time to ensure that we get this process right. We have spoken to a wide range of theatre-makers, arts and community leaders, stakeholders, participants and friends of the company, to consider the future artistic direction of the company and what kind of artistic leader the company needs in these challenging times.”
“Their invaluable input has helped to shape our recruitment and application process and we are very open to job-share and co-leadership applications if they meet with what we are looking for to take the company forward.
Red Ladder is acknowledged as one of the UK’s leading national touring companies, producing new theatre, contributing to social change and global justice. With over 50 years of history, it is recognised for its promotion of new writing and nurturing new creative talent. Red Ladder is funded by Arts Council England and by Leeds City Council. It is renowned for bringing theatre to non-traditional venues and audiences and as a springboard for early career creatives.
The application process for a new Artistic Director will begin in August.
Every effort will be made to accommodate applicants that require additional support to participate in the application and/or interview, whether that is equipment, access support, translation of any of the job pack into BSL, or adjustments to the process.
Applicants can contact email@example.com for any further queries.
Red Ladder Theatre Company Artistic Director Recruitment timelines
18th September applications close
29th September shortlisted candidates are notified and invited for an interview.
10th-12th October first interviews
Second interviews tbc
Appointment of new Artistic Director by the end of October, and in post by early December.
Take a look at our job pack for more information, including a large text version and an audio version.
Please take the time to fill in our equal opportunities monitoring form
The Making of TAXI
A Writer’s perspective from Andrea Heaton, based on an original concept from Douglas Thorpe
Taxi opened it’s doors this August at The Old Woollen, Sunny Bank Mills, Farsley. A collaboration between Red Ladder artistic director Rod Dixon and mad dogs dance choreographer Douglas Thorpe it was many years in the making. The Writer, Andrea Heaton (Heaton (Smile Club, Jack Frost, Football Freddie) shares her thoughts on the making of TAXI.
When I first visited R&D over three years ago the pair had already created a collection of intertwining characters with enough back story for a long running series. At the centre of it all, the Taxi Driver, a character who most of the time said very little at all. Peppered with ideas and moments of Doug’s own experience as a driver, there was a strong sense of this character’s emotional experience but not what his own identity or story might be. When I began to develop the script I decided to lean into this idea as a concept for the whole piece.
Why would this character, who spent his day travelling where he was told, trying to keep his head down, making sure not to talk about anything too risky like religion or politics, why would this guy be the main character? Taxi needed an imperative, a reason to speak; what better than to make Taxi’s story a matter of life and death?
Watching Douglas, and the skilled dancers who have developed Taxi, work was a change of perspective for me. As a writer so many characters start on the page, as an actor I’m led by the voice, by tone and use of language. But mad dogs company characters were in their bodies, deftly expressing the desires, needs and fears of the protagonists without exposition heavy dialogue.
This show could not be naturalistic, it would be physical and viscerally live. Working across genres, with a creative team who are not particularly interested in following the rules of theatre or dance, I had the freedom to write something I had never written before. I wanted to give Doug the space to create epic movement landscapes while telling a story that was intimate and compelling. I wanted to invite the audience on an emotional and spiritual journey with us.
I started by imagining the parade of customers who sat in Taxi’s cab day after day. They could be anyone, all blissfully unaware of who had sat in their seat beforehand, and each with their own agenda. Our Taxi driver catching glimpses of their multi-faceted lives and stories before they disappear from his world. Of the thousands of stories that one taxicab might contain, whose stories do we want to hear? Who do we miss?
After a three year journey with the project, and some expert navigation from dramaturg Lindsay Rodden, my script is now in the hands of the brilliant team Rod has assembled. Zac Doughty’s set design will put our audience right at the heart of Taxi Driver’s world. Ed Heaton (Sound Designer and Composer) and Adam Foley (Lighting Designer) are plotting away to create an immersive experience through the city and beyond. The exceptional multi-rolling cast of five, Maya Carroll, Gerald Headley, John Kendall, Stephania Pinato and John Rwothomack are joined by a community chorus of Leeds folk in signature Red Ladder style.
Taxi is the story of a city, how the pieces fit together to make a whole. It is a story about humans, our loneliness and our desire for tangible connection. It is almost certainly not the story I would have written pre pandemic, it was not the route I expected to take. But here I am, and here you are, this is our journey now- this is who we are.
Red Ladder Theatre Company and mad dogs dance theatre present: TAXI- an interview with the Co-directors Rod Dixon and Douglas Thorpe
Written by Andrea Heaton, Co-directed by Rod Dixon and Douglas Thorpe, based on an original concept by Douglas Thorpe
Taxi is a brand-new premiere from Red Ladder Theatre Company & mad dogs dance theatre, what can audiences expect from this piece of dance and drama?
Rod: I want us to blow away expectations. I mean audiences may have expectations from previous Red Ladder work, but want the audience to be surprised, to be given a spectacle they’ll never forget, this is visceral. People who don’t like dance or theatre will hopefully be reached, TAXI may well intrigue people. We want to bring in people who don’t normally go to see theatre or dance. For us, success will be them leaving after seeing the show and saying: ‘I wasn’t expecting that at all!’
Doug: Agreed. The worst thing would be that we created nothing new, or what the audience expected. We don’t want to replicate what people have done before – that’s what the arts are about, creating something new. Something different. We don’t want to be repeating ourselves.
Rod: Yeah absolutely… I worked with a theatre group considered by critics and audiences to be exciting, yet they were producing exactly the same stuff that they’d been producing 30 years ago. For me, that formula doesn’t work if you don’t stretch yourself as an artist.
We’d seen it all before, using the same stuff, and this collaboration we’re doing now is partly because we both wanted to work outside of our comfort zone. Perhaps in a way that isn’t safe but that’s the endless struggle of art and theatre; how can you take a risk if you need to follow a business plan and if you’re creating art solely for profit, then it isn’t really art.
If we make audiences come out feeling a little uncomfortable, and maybe younger audiences might not have seen anything like this before, live.
Doug: A lot of the script is based on all of the people that I met when I was a taxi driver. It’s all of their stories that I heard, and we are retelling those stories. Some of them are a little more direct and they are also the stories of those people that you don’t get to hear from. That’s what really appealed to me, to be able to share all of those voices that you don’t usually get to hear. And it is not all doom and gloom, it was beautiful to meet someone…
Rod: It’s a slice of urban life, something surreal, but then what you can see out of your car window, and sitting in your taxi at 1 am, CAN be surreal.
Q: It’s quite dark subject matter, what was the inspiration for this piece?
Doug: It isn’t all dark though because sometimes you meet people who are beautiful and so full of life, who you can have great communication with and that’s the perfect scenario of what a taxi driver can experience in a single day.
As a creator, I’ve made pieces of work but not really understood them. But with Taxi, you’d meet people who were clearly struggling financially, yet those were the sort of people who would give you a tip. Couldn’t believe the amount of time you’d pick up people who were clearly financially well endowed, but one of the reasons for that is that they are so well off is because they are greedy and inconsiderate of anyone else.
Yet it is often those that are struggling, that are the most generous and recognise the job that you are doing and are grateful for it. And in TAXI, I think I wanted to capture all of those people, all levels of the human spirit and to capture their voices and share their stories.
Rod: What we are looking at is the everyman and the audience will go away and reflect on their own life and how they leave a mark. The whole thing is about what is life and death, what is the point. People want to leave a mark, but the reality is, that not everyone has ‘statutes’ dedicated to them. How much do people accept just being a benefit to others being enough in life? People aren’t comfortable that things might fail. It’s not so much dark as deep, there’s a depth we are trying to reach, and it’s going to be a challenge. And it might not work!
Doug: That really scares me as an artist because I can be in situations where I can’t afford to fail. I have to go back to things that I know can be successful. So I get pushed into the corner of repeating things. It helps to be in a situation where we recognise that failure is healthy.
Rod: Hopefully, those failures happen in rehearsal. But I’ve been doing this for years and you never know how the audience is going to respond. Opening night is still nerve-racking. You can’t control how people will react. It’s a bit like rock climbing, you’re hanging on by your fingernails a lot of the time. Doug and I are really experienced about what we do and we are bringing our individual experiences and melding them together.
Doug: Yes we’re hoping that our separate audiences will be brought together to enjoy TAXI, though I never know how people will react.
Q: How has the collaboration between the writer Andrea Heaton and Doug and Rod as co-directors worked?
Rod: Andrea is taking the bigger risk, as we’re going to have to interpret her works. Although Andrea has worked with the experimental theatre before with Imitating the Dog. The other collaboration is of course, with the five performers too. They are all really interesting artists in their own right and we’re really excited to see what they will bring to the production.
Douglas: Yes, they all have some great experience and we’re really looking forward to the new ideas that they can bring. They will be adding their own influences and ideas to develop the physical aspect of TAXI.
Q. Leeds is an actual part of the performance of TAXI, are there aspects specific to the city or could this be any urban centre in the North of England?
Rod: I’d go further than that and say it could be any urban landscape in the world. The themes are universal, how we trust or mistrust people, how we are out for ourselves or not. The Taxi driver is almost a philosopher, this is set in a city centre but really it could be anywhere.
Doug: Yes, I agree it could be set anywhere. We all have desires and feelings, whether old or young. The beautiful thing about being a taxi driver is you see people. People can come looking and dressed a certain way and you make assumptions about them when they get into the car, and then turn out to be completely different to how you expect.
Rod: Also our community chorus is an important part as they are playing the role of the city as a mass of people that surrounds us all. We want to give people the opportunity of being in something experimental and being part of the big stage picture.
Q. Doug, we understand that you were a Taxi driver, are there elements of this piece that relate to the invisibility or isolation of being a taxi driver?
Doug: I’ve been in a couple of situations where I wanted to escape but couldn’t. Where I have felt vulnerable or could be attacked. A taxi driver has to be a politician to dodge a situation or sometimes even a comedian to diffuse a situation. You really have to give credit to taxi drivers as they have to think on their feet whilst being confined in a tiny box on wheels.
You have to deal with the aftermath of the situation after someone leaves your car and try not to take it home to my wife. Some taxi drivers only last a couple of years, and I can understand why, as psychologically, the job can really affect you.
Q. Would you hope that audiences react differently/considerately to taxi drivers once they have experienced this piece?
Doug: Yes and no to some degree. Perhaps as our audience leave they may think about how they’ve behaved to taxi drivers previously and maybe even recognise themselves within the art.
We relate to taxi drivers in a particular way and tell them stuff we wouldn’t tell our closest family. I guess that the thought process is that you’re not going to see them again, and people sometimes tell them things just to see his reaction. Almost like a Confession at church.
Rod: The Taxi driver is also the only character within the piece that breaks the fourth wall. There are three worlds within TAXI, the real world, the play world and then the world within his own head.
Q. There are a number of films referenced in TAXI, are you film buffs?
Rod: Not really. Thelma and Louise maybe, I like the feminist statement where they drive off the Grand Canyon as a two-fingered gesture to the patriarchy. I suppose in Taxi, our two characters in the play find that they have a connection through film.
Doug: My favourite director is Tarantino. But I also like Scorsese and he did Taxi Driver with Robert De Niro. We might see a De Niro character in TAXI.
TAXI appears at The Old Woollen, Sunnybank Mills, 83 – 85 Town St, Farsley, Leeds
THURS 10 AUG (Preview Tickets) £13 + BOOKING FEE
FRIDAY 11 AUG – SUN 20 AUG (various times) £15 + BOOKING FEE
Performance Guidance suitable for ages of 13+
Captioning is available via The Difference Engine, a tool that enables d/Deaf and hard-of-hearing people to read performance captions on their phone.
For Tickets Book Here
Red Ladder Theatre Company & mad dogs dance theatre present: TAXI – A Thrilling ride through Leeds Underbelly
“Leeds. So many people. So many stories. I’m driving and driving and never moving.”
I was there when your son was born…
I drove you to your mother’s funeral…
I see you at your best and your worst…
But you don’t even know my name…
I’m just TAXI
Taxi is a brand new co-production from Leeds-based Red Ladder Theatre Company and mad dogs dance theatre, based on an original concept from Douglas Thorpe. It’s a frenetic journey through the streets of Leeds, seen through the eyes of Taxi, the main protagonist, played by John Rwothomack, in an exciting fusion of drama and physical theatre.
Set in the dark underbelly of Leeds, Taxi sees the streets of the city in all their visceral glory. He meets so many people but knows no-one. A silent observer of the best and worst of humanity, seeing first-hand, the major crossroads and milestones of his passengers – weddings, funerals, and high-speed drives to the maternity ward – yet remains alone. Can anyone save him as he slowly fades into a fantasy world of black and white movies to escape his own ugly reality?
Many of the character observations are based on the real-life experiences of co-director and one-time taxi driver, Douglas Thorpe. Combining the writing skills of Andrea Heaton (Smile Club, Jack Frost, Football Freddie) with the directing expertise of Rod Dixon (Mother Courage, The Damned United, The Shed Crew) and Douglas Thorpe (Phoenix Dance Company, mad dogs dance theatre) this original fusion of theatre and dance will take the audience on a thrilling ride they won’t forget.
The ensemble cast (Stefania Pinato, Maya Carroll, John Kendall, John Rwothomack and Gerard Headley) take on a number of different roles within the piece and the city of Leeds is played by a community chorus, who, in turn, portray the myriad of customers that drift in and out of the intimate space of a taxi, throughout a busy shift. TAXI is also the last production of artistic director Rod Dixon who will be leaving Red Ladder at the end of the year, following a successful and productive 17-year association with the company.
Rod Dixon, co-director of taxi and Red Ladder artistic director, said: “I want us to blow away all expectations with Taxi. Audiences may already have experienced previous Red Ladder work, but I want audiences to be surprised to be given a spectacle they’ll never forget. It’s visceral and people who don’t like dance or theatre will be intrigued by TAXI.
It’s a view shared by co-director and mad dogs dance theatre founder, Douglas Thorpe, whose real-life experiences are an integral part of the show, he said: “The worst thing would be to bring nothing new. We don’t want to replicate what we’ve done before. The arts are about creating something new, different and challenging; and in TAXI, we certainly won’t be repeating ourselves.
“All the people that I met as a taxi driver and all of the stories that I heard are being retold as part of the narrative, more directly, more overtly, but I am also interested in retelling the stories from those people that you don’t get to hear about. I saw all levels of human spirit when I was a taxi driver. Struggling people who would give their all to others, and the well-endowed showing unbelievable greed!”
Despite a steady flow of some 30 plus people a day, sharing this private and intimate space, the life of a taxi driver can often be a lonely one, as Douglas explains: “I’ve been in a couple of situations where I wanted to escape but couldn’t. A taxi driver has to be a politician, a comedian, to either dodge or diffuse a situation.
“They have to think on their feet and all the time they are confined in a tiny box on wheels. You have to deal with the situation after someone leaves your car and try not to take it home to my wife. Some taxi drivers only last a couple of years, and I can understand why, as psychologically, the job can really affect you.”
Climb aboard as Red Ladder Theatre Company and mad dogs dance theatre bring Andrea Heaton’s searing script to life with an original fusion of theatre and dance that will take you on a thrilling ride you won’t forget, through the noisy streets of Leeds!
The Old Woollen, Sunny Bank Mills, 83 – 85 Town St, Farsley, Leeds
THURS 10 AUG (Preview Tickets) £13 + BOOKING FEE
FRIDAY 11 AUG – SUN 20 AUG (various times) £15 + BOOKING FEE
Performance Guidance suitable for ages of 13+
Captioning is available via The Difference Engine, a tool that enables d/Deaf and hard-of-hearing people to read performance captions on their phone.
For Tickets Book Here
A New Chapter at Red Ladder Theatre Company as Artistic Director Rod Dixon Departs for Fresh Adventure
After 17 years at the helm at Red Ladder Theatre Company, Artistic Director Rod Dixon has announced he is leaving the company to help set up an Arts-Led, off-grid intentional community in Scotland at the end of the year.
For almost two decades, Rod has been instrumental in putting the work, ideals and values of Red Ladder Theatre Company centre stage. His energy, passion and commitment have been central to producing theatre that contributes to a more socially, environmentally and economically just world. From 2006, when he joined the company, Red Ladder’s work has widened its reach from small-scale touring to the main stages of the Liverpool Royal Court with Homebaked The Musical, Leeds Playhouse, The Lowry, York Theatre Royal, the Edinburgh Fringe and more with The Damned United, and many other prestigious venues over a number of national tours. He has also been a powerhouse of the Red Ladder ethos of bringing theatre to non-traditional venues, and audiences.
Rod has headed up a rich period of discovering and nurturing new talent as well as directing shows such as The Promised Land, Shed Crew, the aforementioned The Damned United, Mother Courage and Glory. He has helped to train and encourage hundreds of new actors and developed an impressive alumnus through Red Grit, Red Ladder’s unique, free and flexible alternative to formal acting training. In addition to helping many budding actors and supporting mid-career artists Rod has actively embraced working with early-career creatives like writers, set designers, lighting designers, sound designers and stage managers whose experience with Red Ladder has given them a springboard into the industry.
The company is very sorry to see Rod go and wishes him well for the next exciting chapter in his life; however, his departure leaves considerably large Doc Martens to fill! The Red Ladder Board has brought together an Artistic Direction Working Group to determine the way forward for the company. The Group is currently exploring what the future artistic direction may look like for Red Ladder Theatre Company as an Arts Council England-funded national portfolio organisation and will be consulting with a wide range of stakeholders and voices within the theatre community.
It’s a very exciting time for the company as we go forward into our new chapter. We are completely open as to what our future artistic direction might be but remain committed to our Vision, Mission and Values: we are a radical theatre company producing new theatre that contributes to social change; we take risks and challenge the idea of theatre and who it is for; we have a human heart and equality and justice are at the centre of all we do.
The application process for a new Artistic Director is likely to begin in July 2023. If you have any questions in the meantime you can contact the Artistic Direction Working Group directly by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
Taxi Casting Call Out
Red Ladder is excited to announce we are opening auditions to be part of our upcoming performance, TAXI, coming this August.
We are looking for volunteers to be part of the Community Chorus, tasked with bringing the city of Leeds alive.
TAXI is a unique production which takes Director Douglas Thorpe’s real experiences of driving taxis in Leeds to explore the city’s dark underbelly, bringing audiences face to face with the despair, hope and loneliness that a life in perpetual transit creates.
TAXI sees the streets of the city in all their visceral glory. He meets so many people but knows no one: a silent observer of the best and worst of humanity. Slowly fading into a fantasy world of black and white movies to escape this ugly reality, can anyone save him?
Climb aboard as Red Ladder Theatre Company brings Andrea Heaton’s searing script to life. Co-directed by Rod Dixon (Red Ladder Theatre Company) and mad dogs dance theatre director (and ex-taxi driver) Douglas Thorpe, this original fusion of exhilarating theatre and dance will take you on a thrilling ride you won’t forget!
TAXI is a joint production in association with Red Ladder Theatre Company, mad dogs dance theatre and Spin Arts.
TAXI is supported using public funding by Arts Council England, Leeds Inspired and Leeds City Council.
ABOUT THE COMMUNITY CHORUS
What will I be doing?
As a member of the chorus, you will be on your feet for the whole show, moving across the stage and helping to make the street scenes come alive. You will move pieces of set and props to make the scene transitions happen quickly and magically. You might get the opportunity to play characters who are passengers and customers, but you won’t have to learn lines, as all the chorus voices are going to be pre-recorded to be a track played through the PA. This becomes part of the sound design to which the chorus will respond and move to.
If you want to learn about movement and develop your skills, this is an exciting opportunity to work alongside some of our talented cast.
What is the commitment?
Rehearsals: Sunday (10:00 AM – 4:00 PM), and Monday and Tuesday evenings starting from 9 July 2023
Performances: Technical & dress rehearsals and performances start on 7 August 2023 and the final show is on Sunday 20 August 2023. We will be having two teams so you would not have to commit to all the performances.
TAXI will be performed on the following dates-
Thu 10 Aug 2023, 8:00 PM
Fri 11 Aug 2023, 8:00 PM
Sat 12 Aug 2023, 8:00 PM
Sun 13 Aug 2023 3:00 PM, 8:00 PM
Tue 15 Aug 2023 8:00 PM
Wed 16 Aug 2023, 8:00 PM
Thu 17 Aug 2023, 3:00 PM, 8:00 PM
Fri 18 Aug 2023, 8:00 PM
Sat 19 Aug 2023, 3:00 PM, 8:00 PM
Sun 20 Aug 2023, 6:00 PM
If you need support with travel expenses for rehearsals and performances then please let us know.
How do I sign up?
Saturday 10 June 2023 – 10 am – 12 pm, The Bobbin Room, Sunny Bank Mills, Farsley, Leeds LS28 5UJ
Saturday 10 June 2023 – 1.30 pm – 3.30 pm, RJC Dance, The Mandela Centre, Chapeltown Road, Leeds LS7 3HY
Sunday 11 June 2023 – 11.30 am – 1.30 pm, City Exchange, 11, Albion Street, Leeds LS1 5ES
You can book here
Places are strictly limited on a first come; first served basis so get in there fast!
The audition will be in a workshop format so please bring water and wear loose and comfortable clothes as there will be movement-based activities. If you have any access requirements we can support you with, or medical conditions you feel we should be aware of for your safety, you will be able to let us know when you sign up.
The deadline to apply is 6 pm on the 8th June 2023
Feel free to select a different audition date/venue if your preferred option is full.
Red Ladder Theatre Company partners with The Cluntergate Centre to deliver Theatre for Wakefield
Red Ladder Theatre Company has announced its partnership with The Cluntergate Centre, Horbury to deliver its Theatre for Wakefield project. The project, created by The Cluntergate Centre, has been made possible thanks to funding from Wakefield Council’s Culture Grant.
As part of the project, Red Ladder, with The Cluntergate Centre, will work to deepen the reach and impact of cultural offerings in the district by taking high-quality theatre and professionally run participatory projects to three venues across Wakefield: The Grove Hall in South Kirkby, Queen’s Mill in Castleford and The Cluntergate Centre itself in Horbury. This includes delivering three theatre shows at each venue from October 2022 – March 2023 with all show tickets £5 or below.
The Cluntergate Centre was awarded funding to create, produce and generate creative and cultural activity in Wakefield, for the people of Wakefield. The pieces have been specially chosen based on the venues and their members’ feedback, reflecting the communities they represent and their values.
Another element of the project is to build a creative network across Wakefield. Linking up these three venues will facilitate collaboration, allowing them to swap successes and discuss shared goals. This includes bringing new people to the centres, growing participation at workshops, showcasing the venues as hire spaces, and increasing overall footfall.
The productions include: My Voice Was Heard But It Was Ignored, a gripping tussle of power which provokes questions about racial identity, and Blow Down, a production which explores the hopes and anxieties around the closure of Ferrybridge Power Station. Blow Down is expected to resonate with similar communities in the north and the urgent need for ‘levelling up’. Plus, Curious Investigators, an interactive engineering adventure for young scientists of 3-7 years old, and their grown-ups. A fourth and final production is also yet to be confirmed.
Two free stand-up comedy courses will also be held at The Grove Hall from the 18th of January and The Cluntergate Centre from the 22nd of January, run by comedian Alex Dunlop. The courses will provide attendees with an introduction to stand-up comedy and teach them the basics of creating and developing material, and delivering it to audiences. Alex also runs the Armley Comedy Club for Leeds Playhouse, which is funded by Comic Relief and won the Best Age Friendly Outreach Award at the Fantastic for Families Awards 2022.
As well as this, at The Queen’s Mill Castleford from the 12th of January, Red Ladder will host its popular actor training course, Red Grit, a free and flexible alternative to formal acting training led by Red Ladder’s Artistic Director, Rod Dixon. Open to anyone who wants to explore their potential as an actor, the eight weekly sessions will teach attendees how to create a character, develop relationships and work as an ensemble. Also at The Queen’s Mill, the venue will host an Arts At The Arms event (12th December) providing an evening of cabaret from the best talent in the region.
For full details on how to sign up to the Stand-up Comedy courses and Red Grit, audiences should visit Red Ladder’s website here: https://www.redladder.co.uk/news/
To buy tickets to attend Arts At The Arms at The Queen’s Mill, visit Red Ladder’s website here: https://www.redladder.co.uk/whatson/arts-at-the-arms/
The performances were supported with a Culture Grant by Wakefield Council.
The Real Stories of the People Behind Blow Down
Blow Down is a new play by award-winning playwright, Garry Lyons, a gritty musical weaving the voices of local people from Ferrybridge and Knottingley, into a thought-provoking piece of theatre.
The play begins with the fall of the cooling towers at Ferrybridge Power station, focusing on an employee with 30 years of service, lamenting: “I spent a lifetime trying to keep that place going. Now it’s gone in seconds.”
The focus of the play is very much loss, as much about the fall of a community as the dramatic collapse of two cooling towers. A community that feels left behind; sold on a promise of stable work for generations to come, that was ultimately unfulfilled in a single generation. We talked to two of the main contributors to the play – Yan and Margaret – whose stories are brought to life by the actors on stage.
The people behind the voices of the stage production tell the tale of a once-thriving community, fading due to neglect and lack of investment. But also that of an enduring community, despite the demise of the physical space, and the importance of theatre in giving a voice to those who feel they have been ignored.
Between 2020 and 2022, the cooling towers of Ferrybridge Power Station in Knottingley were demolished, marking the end of nearly a century of history tied to the production of energy. Inspired by this, Garry Lyons gathered the stories and experiences of the local community living in the shadow of the towers and created Blow Down, mapping the fortunes of a post-industrial Yorkshire town from the 1970s to the modern day.
Yan, whose heritage was tightly interwoven into the local community, and Margaret, whose family moved to Yorkshire from Scotland to work in the pits, both had their stories conveyed verbatim. The play tracks their experiences and others growing up in the thriving community that existed around the Ferrybridge Power station and pits, and its eventual decline.
Margaret and Yan both speak fondly of growing up in the shadow of the towers and talk of a community forged together despite their differences. Margaret moved to the area in the 1960s from Scotland, moving as her family sought work in the Kellingley Colliery. She was one of many, as a large group of workers from Scotland and Durham moved to Knottingley and Ferrybridge in pursuit of work at the power station or mines. “We built a little Scotland,” she says, “right here in Yorkshire.”
Yan’s family had lived in the area for generations, and thus he can give a different perspective on how the local population reacted to the influx of new inhabitants. Both talk of initial hostility between the two communities thrust together by circumstance. Concerns about jobs and housing, and as Margaret jokingly puts it, “the Scots stealing the women” caused friction.
However, over time greater cooperation occurred between the groups, as it appeared the new population could create jobs rather than take them away. A new more cohesive community could be born.
Yan’s family gained work through this new influx of people and a shared community was allowed to flourish. “On Warwick estate” Yan notes “ You left your doors open, not just unlocked, from Christmas to New Year’s and people went in and out of people’s houses as they pleased, celebrating with one another.” Garry Lyons brings these experiences to life in Blow Down, with Margaret’s warmth and wit alongside her fellow Scot, Anna, a large presence in the play, illustrating the camaraderie that developed among those living in the shadow of the towers.
Both Yan and Margaret talk fondly of their time growing up in the area. While nostalgia can make us look upon the past with a rose-tinted view, their accounts tell of a local community thriving. A whole host of pubs littered the landscape, and a community centre funded by miners’ wages tells of a population invested in the ties to their local community.
Margaret recalls packed clubs being a regular occurrence, she said: “It was always busy. They used to have busloads in. They used to have to shut the doors because they couldn’t let anyone else in!”
Even a locally renowned carnival, reminiscent of that of Notting Hill, was an annual celebration going back decades. Yan says “people would spend weeks making outfits. It was massive!” Their accounts reflect what Garry seeks to encapsulate in his play, a working-class community that forged close bonds, despite the difficult and sometimes dangerous jobs they carried out.
Both Yan and Margaret speak of a community once thriving, and both too speak of anger at its decline. Yan points to the decline in industry leading to slow neglect of the area. Yan says “There’s nothing here now, there’s no investment in the community. It’s the same as loads of little mining towns in the North.”
The power station and the colliery were gradually drawn back in scale decades before the eventual blowing up of the cooling towers leading to a gradual dismantling of local community ties. They argue that community hubs remain underfunded and public services that were once provided are now taken away. Yan in particular notes promises that a swimming pool would be kept open, something of particular importance with the community being surrounded by waterways. He said “I have the letter somewhere. They promised they would keep the swimming pool open, promised they wouldn’t shut it. That’s gone now.”
The thriving social scene of pubs has now been reduced to a handful of sites, and the community centres have one by one been redeveloped. Knottingley Community Hub originally funded by the labour of the miners fell into disrepair, a microcosm for a community built on the promises of prosperity for generations to come, now broken.
The picture you get from talking to both Margaret and Yan is a sense of anger at the state of their community, left to fade unheard. Yan notes “people don’t know what they’ve lost because they’ve not experienced it.”
Margaret herself says that she feels “their history has been being rubbed out.”
While anger at the fading of community is a through line in both Blow Down and the accounts of Yan and Margaret, you also can get the sense of an eagerness to sustain their social ties and celebrate their community regardless. Yan himself has made substantial efforts to preserve the voices of the local community. He interviewed significant figures from the area, recording their accounts for perpetuity and sharing the stories of people who have since passed away. He also created a Facebook page for people to share their stories growing up in the area, strengthening social ties that had been strained by time and distance. Yan noted it was a place to “post pictures, memories, get people talking despite living miles away.”
On this fertile ground, Garry was able to create Blow Down, amplifying the voices of people eager to share their experiences. Blow Down allows a creative expression for the community, something lost with the shutting down of pubs and halls, which put local comedians and performers out of business. This makes it all the more important that Red Ladder theatre company is bringing the Theatre Royal Wakefield production of Blow Down to local venues, hopefully reigniting the creative scene in the area. Local people can see their stories dramatized on their doorstep.
Margret and Yan both articulate their excitement at the play to possibly draw attention to the difficulties of the area and instigate change. Blow Down captures the voices of people who believe they have been unheard, bringing those voices to new ears in non-traditional venues, potentially inspiring the change that the community seeks.
The Theatre Royal Wakefield production of Blow Down has been brought to Cluntergate Centre, Queens Mill and Grove Hall, courtesy of a Wakefield Council Culture Grant. Red Ladder Theatre Company collaborated with The Cluntergate Centre to secure its Theatre for Wakefield Project, funded by Wakefield Council to bring professional theatre productions and performances to non-traditional venues, bringing Blow Down to the doorsteps of the community that inspired it.
The Theatre for Wakefield Blow Down shows will be performing at:
Friday 17th February – Grove Hall, South Kirkby
Saturday 18th February – The Cluntergate Centre, Horbury
Sunday 19th February – The Queen’s Mill Castleford, Castleford
Tickets for the three shows are available to buy via the Theatre Royal Wakefield website:
The full Blow Down tour dates can be found here: Theatre Royal Wakefield
- Cheryl Martin joins Red Ladder Theatre Company as new Artistic Director
- The Making of TAXI
- Artistic Director Job Pack
- Red Ladder Theatre Company Recruiting for a New Artistic Director
- Red Ladder Theatre Company and mad dogs dance theatre present: TAXI- an interview with the Co-directors Rod Dixon and Douglas Thorpe
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