A partnership bringing theatre for everyone, taking entertainment and drama to communities.
Red Ladder Theatre Company, Wrongsemble and Leeds Playhouse are working together to take theatre to new places, and people. Their joint production will see the Not So Ugly Sisters staged in working mens clubs, tenants associations, sports clubs and community centres. I talked to Chris Lloyd from Red Ladder about the importance of taking theatre to local communities.
The play, aimed at children over 5, should have originally toured in April 2020, and is now visiting community venues across Leeds. The production brings a high energy, musical take on the Cinderella story. The attractive costumes, sets and action grab the attention of all ages. Its exploration of the twisted images presented by media and celebrity will give older children and adults pause for thought.
Wrongsemble have entertaining families at their heart. Set up in Leeds in 2015, they won the Child Friendly Leeds Award for ‘Inspiring Creativity through Arts and Culture’ in 2020. The cast changes periodically, but the core team of Elvi Piper as writer and director and Antony Jones as designer remain at the centre of the venture.
Leeds Playhouse showcased the The Not So Ugly Sisters last June. Red Ladder has been working with Wrongsemble to enable their community performances to become a reality. The company has built up contacts over many years which they have had pleasure in sharing with Wrongsemble.
After two years, when most entertainment has been experienced in our own homes, it is easy to share Chris’ enthusiasm for live theatre. As he says ‘there is nothing like being close enough to see the sweat on an actor’s brow.’ The intimacy of many of the venues (the Belle Isle location seats about forty) will certainly make this a reality.
Red Ladder have their own productions to take to communities. The Damned United continues to be popular and will be on the road again. I was privileged to review ‘My Voice Was Heard But It Was Ignored’ when it premiered at the Leeds Playhouse in November. The thought-provoking production will be visiting the Edinburgh Festival, a variety of non-traditional venues and will close at the Lowry in October.
Chris explained that Red Ladder is sometimes approached by community organisations who offer their space, whilst at other times the theatre company reaches out. It is not the space that is important; it is the people who use it. There are minimum requirements so that the quality of sound and light are ensured, but any venue will be considered. What matters most is that the venue is run by people who have links to the local community, enthusiasm for theatre and a will to encourage others to come and experience live entertainment.
We talked about the barriers that sometimes prevent people watching theatre. This might be the ticket price, a lack of transport or a fear of not knowing the appropriate social etiquette. For some, a theatre may seem an alien place but the local working men’s club or community centre is familiar and welcoming. By taking drama to community settings, people are enabled to engage on their own terms.
Maybe the new audiences who bring their children to see The Not So Ugly Sisters may in the future be attracted to a Red Ladder production; maybe they will even venture to the Leeds Playhouse. Without doubt, these three organisations are striving to ensure that theatre is available to all.
The Not So Ugly Sisters: Community Tour Dates
5 April The Gate, Belle Isle Tenant Management Association
6 April Hawksworth Wood Community Centre
7 April Space2, Gipton
16 April Gipton Working Men’s Club
24 April Hunslet RLFC, Middleton Grove