So far to publicise my new play Glory I’ve written a piece for the Guardian, appeared on a podcast hosted by The Dukes Theatre in Lancaster and I’ve been interviewed about it for Look North.
I’ve talked about Glory a lot.
Having served the readers of the Yorkshire Post for 15 years now though, I do feel a responsibility to give you something new, something I haven’t already shared. So here it is.
First, some context. Glory is a new comedy drama I’ve written for The Dukes. Set in the world of wrestling, it is a state-of-the-nation piece couched within a story of four men who are wrestling with their lives and their place in the world.
Work began on the play almost exactly a year ago when I met Dukes Theatre producer and human dynamo Anna Nguyen. She saw a short play I wrote at the Dukes and liked my writing. The play, Frack ‘n’ Fish, was pretty divisive, with a number of people hating that I was satirising the notion of protest in the play. Anna, fortunately, got it.
A month after that play we met in Preston in the middle of a Saturday afternoon to go into a nightclub to watch a wrestling match. That is an odd sentence to write, but it was a lot weirder to have lived, particularly given that Anna is British-Vietnamese and I am mixed race; we stood out in the crowd.
After watching the match Anna and I had a coffee and talked about what we had seen. I know now that she was sussing me out, trying to decide if I was the right person to work on the script for a story she’d been thinking about; a play set in the world of wrestling. To say I am glad that she chose me to work on the project is like saying the pope’s a fan of a hat. It has been one of the most extraordinary joys and privileges of my professional life to work on Glory.
Leaving the nightclub on that cold February afternoon I realised something Anna had already spotted – a kind of entertainment I thought had disappeared in the 1980s, British Wrestling – was back. There were fans from all over the country in Preston to see the wrestling that afternoon. A play about this particularly British form of entertainment was a brilliant and timely idea.
A brilliant idea that it was now my task to turn into a reality.
When I interview theatre makers for the Yorkshire Post the conversation will often turn to ‘why now?’ It’s a question directors and writers ask themselves: why should this play exist and be produced now?
It’s a question I had to ask when Anna and I began thrashing out the details of the play. A play about wrestling would clearly be fun and entertaining, but what would it have to say about today? The answer arrived when Anna took me to a refugee and asylum seeker project she had been working with in Lancaster, a city of sanctuary. What if one of these young asylum seekers I met that day came into contact with a different kind of Britain, the one represented by a wrestling ring that harked back to former days? That was the starting point for Glory.
I’ve ended up with a play featuring Jim Glorious Glory, a character I have had so much fun writing (so much fun that we had to halve the number of speeches I wrote for him). There is also Dan, a British Chinese Geordie and wannabe wrestler and Dan, a black British soldier. They all have a lot to fight for in our wrestling ring – which, yes, is a central part of the set.
So what can I tell you that I haven’t already shared elsewhere?
The wrestling. Everyone keeps asking about the wrestling and how I’ve written it into the script. I haven’t given away that secret. Until now. Here’s a stage direction that actually appears in the script for Glory: “They wrestle. It looks ace. They keep wrestling. It keeps looking ace.” It’s what Douglas Adams called an SEP. Someone Else’s Problem.
Fortunately the person whose problem it is, is Kevin McCurdy. He has worked as a fight director for the RSC, the Globe and on the Disney movie John Carter. A good man to provide a solution for the challenge of staging the wrestling scenes in Glory. He is also a great man to run a fight audition, although perhaps not for the poor actors who had to literally fight to win a role in Glory. Again, something I’ve not shared elsewhere: we held two auditions to find our actors and at each audition two actors had to leave during Kevin’s ridiculously vigorous warm up to throw up outside the room. They didn’t get the job.
The wrestling in Glory (and this is not hubris, it’s all down to Kevin and the director Rod Dixon) looks incredible. It looks, well, it looks like wrestling. Glory opens in Lancaster next week before touring and it will be coming to Yorkshire.
When you see it, and I hope you will, watch out for the wrestling. It looks ace.
Glory is co-produced by Red Ladder, London’s Tamasha and The Dukes Theatre, Lancaster. It goes on tour, including to the following Yorkshire venues.
Stephen Joseph Theatre, Scarborough, March 4-6.
Grove Hall, Pontefract, March 8.
Belle Isle Working Men’s Club, March 12.
Cast, Doncaster, March 21.
Cluntergate Centre, Wakefield, March 22.
Jump Club, Barnsley, March 23.
Hull Truck Theatre, March 26. Albion Electric Warehouse, Leeds, April 1-6.
Full details of all tour dates and to book tickets visit www.redladder.co.uk