New plays by Mark Ravenhill, Roy Williams and Timberlake Wertenbaker are part of an audio project to recreate the experience of going to the theatre.
When he was a small child, Ravenhill’s parents took him to the cinema to see The Royal Ballet’s film The Tales of Beatrix Potter. The writer of the sexually violent Shopping and Fucking, Some Explicit Polaroids and Mother Clap’s Molly House, was so enamoured of Jemima Puddle-Duck that he wanted to dress up like her. “I was obsessed about performing the dances. Then I bought my little Woolworths book, How to Be a Ballet Dancer.”
His new audio play, Angela, was written during the first lockdown and centres on his mother, whose real name was Angela, who died “disoriented by dementia” in 2019. The autobiographical audio play interweaves events from his suburban childhood in Haywards Heath and conversations decades later, with his 84-year-old mum.
Ravenhill’s family didn’t take him to London (less than an hour by train) to see professional theatre productions, but “lots of people have access to the arts through the school play, a local amateur group, a tap-dancing class”.
After his mother died, Ravenhill enrolled for ballet class at City Lit in London and memories of dancing around as Jemima Puddle-Duck flooded back. He realised that his desire to dance was a response to his mother’s death: “a sort of displacement for grief”. He was the only man in the class with “25 mostly retired ladies”, but it was a “glorious” experience. “There’s no chat. You get in, start warming up and dance. It’s a good remedy to being a chatty person, to have to dance.”
Lockdown has stopped his lessons for now, but Strictly Come Dancing has been feeding his appetite until he can return to ballet class.
Sound Stage is “a new theatrical experience for everyone” and will be produced by Edinburgh’s Royal Lyceum Theatre and Pitlochry Festival Theatre in collaboration with radio play creators Naked Productions.
Sound Stage will open on Friday 26 March with the première of Mark Ravenhill’s new play Angela. Tickets will go on sale on Sunday 14th February.