Stephanie Ridings' UNKNOWN MALE Coming to Birmingham Repertory Theatre
A powerful and darkly comic play exploring the impact of a railway suicide on a train driver and her family premieres at Birmingham Repertory Theatre in January.
UNKNOWN MALE by Stephanie Ridings tells the story of Heather and her family as they struggle to come to terms with the life shattering incident. Heather loves being a train driver, but she has been off work since the incident. Emily is in the middle of her GCSE's, but her head has been turned by uncovering unknown answers. Mark has never been able to manage emotion, especially his own. How does one family find its way through tragedy that doesn't even belong to them?
Writer Stephanie Ridings was part of The REP's inaugural REP Foundry artist development programme - an initiative created by artistic director Roxana Silbert in 2013 which aims to discover, nurture and promote local writers, directors and theatre makers. UNKNOWN MALE was written during Stephanie's time on the Foundry and is her second play. Her first major script, Me, Mum & Dusty Springfield enjoyed a sell-out Edinburgh Festival run before embarking on an acclaimed national tour.
Stephanie says of the play:
"Unknown Male came about after watching a documentary about the London Underground. One episode featured a 'one under'. I found it wasn't the horror of seeing footage of the male pace the platform moments before he jumped, or seeing his shoe abandoned on the track, it was the opening of his wallet brimming with receipts and bank cards in order to identify him, which resonated deeply.
"In my research I discovered that train drivers often have a very difficult battle with posttraumatic stress and are often never able to drive a train again. The horror and violence of the situation often overwhelms the last person to see the 'jumper' alive. How do you cope with such a violent incident when all you did was go to work and do your job? I discovered the pain, which leads someone to take their own life, does not die with them, but is merely transferred to those they touch with their suicide. There's a ripple effect such an act causes."
UNKNOWN MALE is produced by Birmingham Repertory Theatre in association with Pippa Frith who was recently awarded the Peter Brook Empty Space / Mark Marvin Rent Subsidy Award enabling her to work with The REP's studio theatre, The Door to produce Stephanie's play.Laura Collier, Head of National Theatre Studio, and Panel Member for the Peter Brook / Mark Marvin Rent Subsidy Award 2014 said of the play: "Unknown Male really stood out during selection for the awards. Stephanie has an authentic and important new voice; the truth with which she draws her characters and the pain of a family's falling apart and their ultimate healing delivers an impact that is hard to shake. I'm really delighted that the play is getting the life it deserves."
Playing Heather is Lorraine Stanley whose theatre credits include Wildefire (Hampstead Theatre), Epsom Downs (Salisbury Playhouse), Frontline (National Theatre) and Days of Significance (RSC). Her TV credits include Chasing Shadows (ITV), Mayday, Little Dorrit and Call The Midwife (BBC) and film includes A Hundred Streets, Legend and Suffragette.
Ged Simmons plays Mark. Originally from Birmingham, Ged's recent theatre credits include Never Try This At Home (Birmingham Repertory Theatre), The Mouse and His Child; The Merry Wives of Windsor (RSC) and We Love You City (Belgrade Theatre). Previous screen credits include: New Worlds (Channel 4; Outnumbered (BBC); Downton Abbey and Coronation Street (ITV).
The cast is completed with recent University of Birmingham graduate Pheobe-Frances Brown as Emily.
UNKNOWN MALE is directed by Nick Walker. Nick is a co-founder of Talking Birds, a Coventry-based theatre company whose work has been presented across the UK, Europe and US. Recent credits include We Love You City and Oh No It Isn't! at the Belgrade, Coventry. The set design is by Oliver Shapley with lighting design by Liam Jones and sound design by Clive Meldrum.
Listings InformationDates: Wednesday 28 to Saturday 31 January
Venue: The DOOR, Birmingham Repertory Theatre, Centenary Square, Broad Street, Birmingham B1 2EP
Performance times: 8pm Wed to Sat, matinee at 2.30pm on Sat
Tickets: £10 - £12 with concessions available. Preview Club for 14 to 30 year olds: £5 on 28 Jan only.
After Dark post-show discussion with the company: Fri 30 Jan
Box Office: 0121 236 4455 Online Booking: Birmingham-rep.co.uk