Can you tell us a bit about yourself and your career as a stage director?
I grew up in London and fortunately very close to a number of theatres and arts venues which I’m sure played a strong part in influencing my career choice. I have worked in theatre, participatory arts and education throughout my 20 year career in organisations such as the Unicorn Theatre, Young Vic, Southbank Centre and the National Theatre.
For the stage, I have directed new writing on the London Fringe, classic adaptations internationally with a bilingual Youth Theatre in Hong Kong and in 2020 I was Associate Director on Oliver Twist for Leeds Playhouse and Ramps on the Moon. This year, for the Unicorn Theatre’s production of Marvin’s Binoculars, I was Associate Director for the digital production as well as being Director for the London schools tour which took place in the summer term.
As a disabled, Queer theatre director and filmmaker I have often focused on projects and productions that explore the joy of working with and telling stories celebrating these perspectives.
How did you get involved with RED?
Polka Theatre approached me as they were looking for someone with experience in working in collaboration with deaf creatives. They were aware of my experience embedding British Sign Language within storytelling which I had done on some projects as well as working as Associate Director on Oliver Twist which integrated British Sign Language into the narrative and staging. It’s something I have been passionately exploring in my practice for a number of years.
Polka also told me how they were keen to further extend the way they make their theatre and work more accessible; that the project would also involve collaborating with deaf children from local schools and that the production would be the first to welcome and reopen the theatre to the public after its long closure for the redevelopment and pandemic. It was a firm yes from me!
What is RED about? The story and the important themes?
We are working from an initial storyline that Polka Theatre’s Artistic Director, Peter Glanville created: RED is a reimagining of the folk tale Little Red Riding Hood that takes the audience on a journey through the theatre with The Wood Cutter (RED’s parent). RED has disappeared and The Wood Cutter goes in search of her; on this journey through the woods and swamp, the story raises important and relevant questions relating to empowering the voice of children, the environment and humanity’s ability to change for the better.
On one level this show can be experienced as an exciting adventure but we hope it will also open up some conversations after too.
What is the role of Sign Language in the play?
I am privileged to be working with 3 amazing Deaf actors for this production, Bea Webster, Ciaran O’Brien and Zoë McWhinney. The most important thing to say is that the story will mainly be told visually and physically and that we will use a number of physical storytelling tools such as movement, iconic signs (universally understood signs), gestures and facial expressions with some use of Sign Language and English.
I will also be working very closely throughout rehearsals with the very talented Brian Duffy, Associate Director and British Sign Language Consultant to bring this new production to life, which we hope will be in an engaging and exciting way for children aged 6 and above and their families.
What is most exciting to you about being a part of this production?
There are so many things, including the fact that this is a piece that will promenade and walk through three different new spaces in the new theatre building. The cast and creative team is simply amazing and working with them is definitely a highlight. To have a show that brings young people and families back into the theatre in these times feels both important and exciting.
What are the challenges and benefits about RED being a promenade piece?
We hope that RED will take audiences on a journey – both emotionally and physically. We’ve even invited audiences to wear wellies, if they want to, we really want you to feel like you’re in the woods and swamp and spark the audience’s imagination!
It might be fair to say that the Set and Costume designer, Rachana Jadhav has had the exciting challenge of responding to the three very different spaces. I can’t wait for her designs to be realised and for the performers and the audience to be in the middle of it all.
I also think conveying what promenade means to audiences can be a challenge as different people will have different experiences of it or none at all. We want the experience of attending RED to be welcoming, it won’t require you to be on the move at all times, but means that the action and storytelling will be happening around you, hopefully in an exciting way! You will need to move between spaces a couple of times, but can sit down whilst watching the story unfold.
RED runs from Sat 25 Sep – Sun 31 Oct and is suitable for ages 6+. Join us for our first show back at Polka Theatre! Book your tickets here.