I had been looking forward to this event for some time, and even more so since I interviewed the amazing Lisa Holdsworth a couple of weeks ago.
Lisa has adapted the novel Black Teeth and a Brilliant Smile, by the equally amazing Adelle Stripe, into a stage play and its first performance was by The Freedom Studios in the Ambassador Pub in Bradford on 31st May. The Mission Statement of Freedom Studios reads as follows: ‘To be the home for new and experienced artists in Bradford with a view to bringing together audiences and communities by creating new work and other opportunities for them to engage with the arts.’ If this is a fair sample of their output then they are succeeding admirably.
Both the book and play are intended as works of fiction, albeit based on the life of Andrea Dunbar, who died at the tragically young age of 29, after writing The Arbour and Rita Sue and Bob Too, both of which were premiered at the Royal Court Theatre in London. The inclusion of fictitious elements arose because Andrea’s life was not meticulously recorded and therefore there is speculation as to some of the events. Real characters are represented along with fictional ones for illustration.
Knowing that I would be interviewing Ms Holdsworth, I read the book and wondered how she was going to turn a piece which moved from Bradford to London, to Brighton, to Keighley and back to Bradford into something which could be performed in a small space above a pub – just set it in a replica of The Beacon, Andrea’s local pub! The fake bar served not only drinks but also as a witness box in a courtroom, and the tables and chairs were also a dining room and an office in the BBC. The bar room itself was the Royal Court Theatre, the Dunbar’s sitting room, a taxi booking office, a mill and all manner of other venues conjured up by the creative team.
There was an amazing piece of karma in the evening as, when I arrived at the Ambassador, I went into the pub rather than the performance space, and even at 7.00pm karaoke night was in full swing. As I went to the bar to ask where the play was being performed, a woman was giving full throat to the Gene Pitney classic Town Without Pity. I don’t think that there could have been a more appropriate soundtrack to the performance I was about to watch; not only in the name of the song, which certainly reflected Andrea’s return to Bradford, but it was also a song recorded by a man but tonight performed by a woman. Tonight’s cast were all female, as are the creative team.
That reminds me. Below, as promised, are those names and contributions to this wonderful production. I would urge you to go and see the play for yourself if you can get a ticket but it seems to be sold out, not just for its run in Bradford but also for a large part of the rest of the tour. A pity really as I would love to see it again. A theatre reviewer prepared to spend his own money to watch a play – now there is a first.
Director – Kash Arshad
Designer – Hannah Sibai
Stage Manager – Emaleigh Plighting
Sound Designer – Karen Lauke
Lighting Associate – Keilidh Whyte
Assistant Director – Jaasra Aslam
Every one a gem.
All photographs by Tim Smith.
Stan writes Let’s Do Lunch for Leeds Living. He also reviews special events for food and drink, which sometimes takes him beyond Leeds. He has also developed an interest in writing on culture, most frequently dramatic and musical theatre.