Hard Working Families cast from January 2016
One hundred into one goes just fine
Anyone who has watched a Stage2 Youth Theatre production will know that director Liz Light does not do monologues, mono being seen as a sort of odd spelling of many.
Thus, for example, Why is John Lennon wearing a skirt?, an award winning monologue from Birmingham writer and performer Claire Dowie, is reborn under Liz Light with a cast of 89.
Then there is Dowie’s Arsehammers which reappeared with 16 actors, or Year of the Monkey with 25, or Adult Child/Dead Child (AC/DC) with more than 100 – finally Claire Dowie got the message, cutting out the middleman so to speak, and writing directly for Stage2 with Hard Working Families and a cast of 97.
There is a mutual respect between Light and Dowie and a successful and continuing collaboration, with Dowie becoming the patron of Stage2 and allowing, indeed encouraging her one woman shows to be adapted into ensemble piece.
The result is Upfont Theatre, published by Bloomsbury, (£19.99 -£17.99 online) which contains the Stage2 versions of John Lennon, Arsehammers and Year of the Monkey, along with the original script of Hard Working Families.
The scripts are aimed at schools and youth theatre with subjects which relate very much to the lives of youngsters. John Lennon, for example is the coming of age of a teenage girl, a real tomboy, questioning gender stereotypes.
Arsehammers is a bittersweet comedy where a child mishears that his Granddad has Alzheimers, thus endowing him with a bottom with supernatural powers to explain how he vanishes and then appears in the most unlikely places – an growing situation for youngsters
In Year of the Monkey we look into the minds of people at a wedding, and a funeral, while Hard Working Families pits the two extremes – a mother on benefit with very little money who has decided to stay at home and bring her children up as a mother, and, at at the other side of the stage a mother who works long hours in an execute job with plenty of money but little time for her son. And then there are the politicians, the Westminster village people, with their imaginings of what ordinary people are and must want.
The book launch at Birmingham Rep Door opened with first Dowie performing part of Why is John Lennon wearing a skirt? Followed by Rosie Nisbet with another excerpt. Rosie is a Stage2 regular taking her first steps towards a professional career as Rosanna Haines.
Another Stage2 stalwart starting the professional journey is Charlie Reilly, with her professional name Charlie Ives, reprising the role of Rose, the mother who wants more from life, in Year of the Monkey, along with Connor Fox and, another from the original, Alex Butler.
We had four excerpts from Hard Working Families and an excpt from Arsehammers, with Laura Dowsett, Roni Mevorach and Meg Luesley, reprising roles.
Arsehammers will be staged again in January along with another adapted Dowie Monologue AC/DC (10-13 January 2018).
Liz Light told the audience that she had admired Clair’s work for years before she plucked up the courage to speak to her. She said: “It is brilliant writing and adapting her work has given me confidence and made me proud of what we achieved.
“It led to other adaptations and it gives everyone a chance, everyone has a proper part that matters.”
Claire, generously, said she writes stuff and Liz improves it and gave an insight into her work. Her characters “were like meeting a new friend, I want to know more about them, I stalk them. I don’t know how it happens, I just let it happen.
“Most of my stuff is fuelled by anger or revenge.”
She said she might see or hear something that was unfair, or wrong and that was the start an idea.
And her answer to a questioner asking for her advice on writing was deceptively simple. “Do it”.