[All images courtesy of Red Ladder]
Rich Jevons talks to Red Ladder Artistic Director Rod Dixon about their fundraising event in Leeds showing the one-man show Rabbitskin, the latest news from the company and a little reminder about what they stand for as the UK’s leading radical theatre company.
TSOTA: What led you to put on the production?
RD: It was toured a couple of years ago then writer Dominic Grace and performer William Fox decided they wanted to bring it out again and they approached us. It’s about bringing theatre to people who wouldn’t normally access it, partly out of choice but also out of expense. And it’s a way for us to try out the Black Swan space and hopefully build a relationship with them. It’s not a typical Red Ladder show to be honest, although it is about class and struggle, but it’s not like something that we’d normally put on. We’re trying it out in non-theatre venues and it’s been going down really well.
TSOTA: Could you tell us a bit more about the show?
RD: It is written by a local Leeds writer from Beeston, Dominic Grace, and performed by William aka Paul Fox – a real Leeds lad, perfect for the part. It’s about Dom’s Irish Catholic childhood in Leeds, fairly autobiographically based on his own life with a darkness that is obviously fictional. It’s a strong piece of storytelling in the classic Irish sense really, including his own passion for reading but there is a quite a dark twist at the end, which is quite a shock to the audience.
TSOTA: It mentions the theme of pain, is this due to it being a dysfunctional family?
RD: The character’s mother dies when he is a small child and his older brothers blame him. He’s the runt of the family, there’s a lot of bitterness. But there’s a lot of love too. But it’s the pain of living with that [tragedy] it’s about how families do have skeletons in the closet. It’s a very beautiful piece of writing. Fox is really engaging and his local voice also helps because people really hear what he’s saying, it rings true for them.
TSOTA: What’s the latest news with the Save Red Ladder campaign and what can people do to help?
RD: The TUC have sent out to all their branches and several have affiliated with us. But the biggest contribution most people can make is to come to our shows.
TSOTA: What will the funding be going towards?
RD: Things like Damned United at West Yorkshire Playhouse that will bring into that building a different audience to their normal one. It will be in the Courtyard space with a big name and high profile. But we also want to be able to scale it down after WYP for the pub circuit.
TSOTA: What’s it been like working with Chumbawamba founder Boff Whalley [Wrong ‘Un, We’re Not Going Back!)?
RD: Our relationship with Boff Whalley is an example of why a company like ours needs core funding from ACE because it’s taken five years of development and I’m really pleased in the way Boff has developed as a playwright.
TSOTA: You mention French philosopher Proudhon, what significance does he have for you?
RD: Proudhon said we can self-organise and we’re heading, ironically, to a sort of version of what Cameron called the Big Society. The State is based on fear, divide and rule, which is something that we want to address through our work. But it’s about now! Times are going to get tougher so we have got to make our community strong, not turn on each other.
TSOTA: And who would you say have been influences? Dario Fo perhaps?
RD: Dario Fo is very much an influence for Boff and I – it’s about humour, sing-along songs, a lot of direct address to audience, breaking down the fourth wall.
Interview by Rich Jevons