A tale of two theatres

Jonny Vaughton and Darren Cheek in ‘The Door’

Two very different theatrical experiences over the weekend. In the first I knew what to expect, in the second less so. The first was a performance of my play, ‘The Door’ at the Keynes Library, Birkbeck’s School of Arts before a full, and enthusiastic, house. Naturally, I know the play intimately and also this production which we have been touring sporadically since 2015. What surprises me still, though maybe it shouldn’t, is the degree to which a play I wrote ten years ago remains so relevant, so current.

This is brought out every time we have a question and answer session after the performance with questions ranging from accountability, questions of principle and the specific of engagement in war to the role of the media, the effectiveness of democracy and the links between interventions and terrorism. The emphasis is different every time but the degree of engagement of the audience is both thrilling and humbling.

We continue our tour with the next date being 7th February at Guildford, the Mill Studio at the Yvonne Arnaud theatre ( https://www.yvonne-arnaud.co.uk/production/the-door ).

The second theatre trip over the weekend was to Chichester Festival Theatre to see the musical version of Calendar Girls. I was expecting something light and fun, which it was, but wasn’t expecting the music to work as well as it did, or for the show to be such an emotional rollercoaster. In the event, it was polished, but also raw; it was well acted and directed, well choreographed, and there were some strong singing voices. More than that, and the ode to my native Yorkshire, the way it dealt with the realities of love and bereavement, of growing up and changing relationships and of the cathartic nature of taking action were superb. I’ve seen the film of course, but either I’ve forgotten the impact or this had more. And the lack of all those wonderful views of Yorkshire scenery was compensated by the presence in one of the starring roles of Rebecca Storm, who hails from Shipley as I do and who I knew when we were growing up.

I was looking for a connection between the two shows and I think it’s about honesty and about relationships. There’s an interdependence between the characters in each, the social groups in one and the Army unit in the other , on which they depend. There’s a need to face the truth in both scenarios. A need which our government failed to face in taking us into Iraq and which our current government shows no sign of recognising either.

Tony Earnshaw

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