JOHN RETALLACK – Writer & Director John Retallack is the author of twelve plays for young people and has adapted numerous texts for the stage and radio.
He was the founding director of ATC Theatre, director of Oldham Coliseum, director of Oxford Stage Company, and the founding director of Company of Angels.
From 2010 - 2013, he was Associate Director at Bristol Old Vic where he directed Owen Sheers’ play Pink Mist.
Prior to setting up the Oxford Playwriting Course, he was Tutor in Writing for Performance at Ruskin College in Oxford.
What compelled you to write both the original Hannah and Hanna, and its follow up Hannah and Hanna in Dreamland?
Before writing the original play of Hannah and Hanna, I had worked on a play about refugees in Holland. When I came back to London, I wanted to write something about the hosts, since at that time, I didn’t think there was anything around where we saw how much animosity existed between long term residents and newcomers from outside the UK. I decided to test this out in Margate and we did a workshop in a school in Ramsgate. I set up an improvisation where the students were talking to refugees in Kosovo. Their attitudes were astonishing – presumably influenced by the views of their parents. In the eyes of these young people, all asylum seekers had babies, were thieves and had Rolex watches! They were happy to unite around a common enemy. My daughter’s name is Hanna and at the time, her best friend was called Hannah, so this gave me the title of the play, in which I wanted to explore how two young women from very different backgrounds could become friends and what their story might be. Then in the summer of 2015, I began writing a play for the Unicorn about the Calais Jungle. It wasn’t produced but it led to me revisiting the story of Hannah and Hanna and to find out what happened to the Hanna(h)s 15 years on.
The play is set in Margate, but do you think it could be anywhere?
It is important that Hannah and Hanna in Dreamland is located in a coastal town – since the coast is traditionally where people arrive to and where they depart from. Margate is a uniquely good place to set the play. Not only is it close to Dover and Folkestone – and therefore to continental Europe, but it has also changed hugely between 2000 and today. Margate in 2000 was dilapidated and scary. Today, there is a more balanced political discourse and there are signs of lasting transformation.
Why is theatre a good way to explore some of the issues that Hannah and Hanna in Dreamland addresses, such as relationships, migration, racism, gentrification, the impact of incomers etc?
Theatre is an important medium to explore and debate these issues. At a time where there is no longer a proper political discourse in this country, it is up to artists to provide opportunities for people to talk about the things that should matter to us. Theatre punches well above its weight. It is my medium, the genre I know best, and I hope that Hannah and Hanna in Dreamland will enable audiences to look again at these important topics.
rLooping the Loop is committed to supporting and promoting Thanet-based artists. We’re please to hand over our blog-space to one of our associate artists Megan Garrett-Jones to tell you all about ‘Things With Words’ – a spoken word performance event and occasional radio show that is about to have a particularly spooky outing for Halloween.
Yes. Things With Words is getting freaky for Halloween at the Ravensgate Arms in Ramsgate. Things With Words basically does what it says on the tin. It’s an open platform event giving people the opportunity to present any manner of things with words. This will be the 5th event and so far we have incorporated short stories, poetry from the page as well as slam-style poetry, song lyrics, character monologues, re-readings (for example, last event Gertrude Stein was recited whilst audience members all ate jelly). I tend to round up local creatives and ask them to present something, but it is also an open mic and we are forever welcoming new people to the floor.
Three events ago I decided to make a radio show to coincide with each event, which is hosted on the Ramsgate Music Hall Radio website. This was a chance to further explore a theme for each event. Songs are chosen for the lyrics and how the words do something in particular in each song. They are all available online, so please check them out if you are interested. The producer I work with in Ramsgate, Nick De Carlo, and I had a lot of fun on the Halloween radio show as we negotiated the fine line between wanting to revel in all of Halloween’s awful tacky fun and wanting to present something meaningful and dig a bit deeper into the significance of the festival. It will probably be a similar vibe at the Ravensgate Arms on Halloween. With such an array of people presenting, it’s certainly going to be multi-dimensional.
I connected with Looping the Loop as a volunteer when I moved to Thanet two years ago and I have enjoyed support from the festival as an artist, well as getting to see some genuinely transformative theatre and live art. This is another element to doing ‘Things With Words’ for me. I believe in the power of performance in exploring new ways to do things with words and actions. This is very much a community event and I strongly encourage people to come and get involved and discover what we can do together.
Things With Words
Spoken Word Open Mic
Tuesday 31st October, 7:30 pm onward, free
Ravensgate Arms, Ramsgate
Open mic signup or inquiries email@example.com
TNT. An explosive. Dynamite. Invented by Alfred Nobel. So he invented a prize. So that he’d be remembered for peace and not death. Smart plan. It worked. We’ve used a similar thought process in forming ‘Theatre Network Thanet’ (TNT). Actually we haven’t created a weapon of mass destruction. But don’t write us off just yet.
But to get down to brass tacks, TNT is a group that we (writer and performer Tom Adams and writer/actor Chris MacDonald) have set up in collaboration with Looping the Loop. TNT’s aims are simple. We want to get anyone who works in or is interested in live performance in Thanet together for a chat and a glass of something every month.
We had our guinea pig run at the Harbour Arm in Margate and followed it up at the beginning of October with our first official meet-up at Archive in Ramsgate.
Our aims are simple. Meet, chat, put faces to names and maybe exchange numbers and a desire to help each other out. We’re not attempting to form a hugely committed professional theatre company to rival the RSC in Thanet, we merely want to create a space where people can come together and talk. At future meets we’re going to have a little bit of live performance to get things going and we will encourage our people to volunteer themselves for this as we go along.
Both meetings so far have been a lovely way to spend a Thursday evening. I entreat you to come along or tell everyone you know about us. It can be a tough business at times and being able to talk to others in the same boat is incredibly nourishing. Perhaps the Nobel committee will one day give us the ‘Peace Prize’ for services to neurotic thespian souls. Let’s hope that one day, that’s all the world has to worry about.
The next TNT will form part of Looping the Loop Festival's launch event on November 12th at Tom Thumb Theatre. For more details of this event check HERE
As we continue our mission to present more and more live performance across Margate, Ramsgate, Broadstairs (and beyond!) we have recently adopted an elderly caravan & future ‘mobile arts space’ to help us on that journey.
Arty folk of Thanet - we need your help! Looping the Loop is offering a commission to an artist or group of artists, to beautify our 1970/80s caravan as it prepares to embark on its new life in the arts.
We invite interested artists to apply. The brief is:
To create a design concept for the exterior of our caravan and to suggest any particular carry-through aspects into the interior space. To carry out the transformation of the exterior, for our first outing, which will be on Saturday 11th November 2017.
We have an existing Looping the Loop logo which needs to be incorporated and we use red as our key colour in promotion of the festival.
The commission is for £500 plus materials (to be agreed in advance with Looping the Loop).
Please apply with a short outline of how you would approach the design, and include three images of previous work. Submissions should include your name and contact details and come to firstname.lastname@example.org by Monday 16 October.
We have a callout for an artist/maker to take part in The Castle Builder on Sat 18 November at the Theatre Royal Margate. It probably sounds like an odd 'opportunity' - to make something during the performance, from wood from a broken chair.
We had this message today from one of the senior producers at Battersea Arts Centre, after seeing the show at Wigan Old Courts, the opening festival. It makes it make sense...
"Chatting to Louise afterwards, she mentioned that Vic (Llewellyn, performer) had described the show to her as a 'mix between a TED talk and a rock concert' - and just in case that isn't something he has mentioned to others I thought I would share that. It's a great description of the show I think. Vic and Ed are speaking really passionately and with great humour about what it is to make things; shows, buildings, toys for their kids, art....and the music is just great.
I found it incredibly inspiring and really moving.
There is a particularly beautiful song which is a dedication to the local maker that is working on stage throughout the show, and is essentially a love song for anyone who makes things. It made me beam and it made me cry."
So, if you are an artist or maker, or know someone who might get a lot from joining us at this performance, please get in touch.
Click here to read about the show
Click here to go to the Opportunity page
In the lead up to UTTER THANET's first sharing on Sept 24, 2pm at Roundabout Festival CLIVE HOLLAND of MISCHIEVOUS THEATRE talks about the idea behind this ambitious new project.
Mischievous Theatre's new project, Utter Thanet, is coming to the end of the first phase of a long journey that will end in a provocative, illuminating and uplifting piece of verbatim/from-real-life-testimony theatre. Utter Thanet is about you, about me, about all of us who live here on the Isle of Thanet; that sticky-out bit of land on the edge of Kent that juts in the restless channel and is home to an eclectic, and some might say, random group of people. Utter Thanet is about those people but it is also about people everywhere. It is about our responses to change, our attitudes towards the place we call home, it is about our feelings and thoughts about the people who we live cheek by jowl with; it is about community, society and the human condition.
Over the last few months we have spoken to almost 1000 people about living in Thanet. People of all ages, backgrounds and situations, trying to discover what makes Thanet tick... what do we love, hate and hope for. We are in the process of transcribing the hundreds of hours of recordings and slowly building up a picture of the place we call home. We have also delved into social media, the newspapers and have eavesdropped on conversations in pubs, cafes and on the streets to add to the eclectic mix of opinions. The next stage of the process, which we are at the beginning of, is to create a script. This script, based entirely on the words of the people of Thanet, will form the basis of a new and provocative piece of theatre that will be produced in 2018.
Of course, having a script isn’t the end of the process. In order to make a piece of theatre that lives, can stand on its own two feet in the twenty first century, can provoke thought and discussion, can intrigue, interest and entertain, can eventually uplift and hopefully, affect the way people think about the place they call home (whether that is Thanet or somewhere else in the UK), it has to be more than just words. What is the style of the play, will it have music, sound effects, a soundscape, what about the visuals; set and costume,colours and textures, will the play have video projection, lighting, special effects, will there be movement, dance, puppets, masks, will it be performed in a dedicated theatre or in community halls or will it be site specific or site generic, indoors or out, will it be on a stage, in the round, or a promenade production ... at the moment, all of these questions are just that; questions! In order to realise the full potential of Utter Thanet we will start with a script, we will experiment, try things out, we will put some ideas in front of an audience and see how they respond and eventually, with our superb team of creative people, we will create something that will do justice to the words that were so kindly gifted to us by almost 1000 people.
If you want to find out more about the project, follow the link below. If you want to have your say or contact Mischievous Theatre for some other reason, please e mail to; email@example.com