Theatre plays a big part in the upcoming Leith Festival, and a lot of it celebrates the lives of Leith people. We have already spoken to playwright Laure Paterson about her play Leith Docks here. But there’s also a new theatre company on the block – Theatre Imperative – who are bringing their play The Wee One, an original story about the true-to-life challenges of an ordinary family, to the same venue (Leith Dockers’ Club) from 13 – 16 June. We gave actor/director Adam Tomkins the The Wee Review Q&A treatment…
So, what’s imperative about Theatre Imperative?
Granted it’s not a word you hear that often these days except perhaps in the media or by those desperate for change. It has an urgency and an energy that we like; it demands attention. What’s imperative for us is that new plays acknowledge real people and what they value.
Who’s involved in the company?
The company was set up by actor/director Adam Tomkins and writer/actor Philip Rainford in 2016. Having worked together on numerous projects including readings and performances at 5MD and Discover 21, Philip and Adam joined forces to establish a new writing company in the heart of Leith.
Your play The Wee One has been evolving over a couple of years. Tell us how it started out…
In 2014 Phil wrote a short monologue about an older gentleman who chickens out of an internet date because, as he puts it, “they probably just got rid of a bloke like me”. It was warmly received at Collider in Discover 21, Edinburgh, and quickly grew to become The Wee One.
And how is it shaping up now?
Phil partly wanted the play to reflect the isolation and vulnerability of older men in a family context. He recognised that for such a theme to be palatable, it must have the right balance of humour and pathos. Inspired by the likes of Shelagh Delaney, Tony Warren, Ken Loach and John Osborne, he set about writing his first “proper” play. The Wee One was first performed in Discover 21 Edinburgh in 2015; the run sold out and it was warmly received. Since then, it’s undergone a few changes and grown a couple of extra scenes and it is shaping up to be something very special.
You mention those two little words that don’t get much of a look-in in modern theatre – “working class” – and quote Shelagh Delaney as an influence on the play. How strongly do you feel that the challenges of ordinary folks are being neglected by theatre, on a scale of nought to Dennis Skinner on budget day?
On a scale of nought to Dennis Skinner on budget day, probably somewhere around Jacob Rees-Mogg! We don’t have a political agenda; that would only get in the way of creativity. It is very important to acknowledge ordinary folks and their challenges – actually it’s a diamond mine of material for creatives. It stands to reason that in this austere day and age we are going to make sure our voices are heard in the theatre, just as much as they are on TV and film. When John Prescott said “we are all middle class now”, the culture changed. Working class aspirations and values were undermined. The skills and talents of ordinary folks are what Theatre Imperative are all about.
You’ve worked with Serenity Cafe and the Scottish Recovery Consortium. Where does their work fit with the play?
Phil has worked closely with Serenity Cafe since its inception, as a volunteer and committee member. His own experiences of recovery from alcohol misuse led him to foster a vested interest in the recovery of others in the community. Serenity Cafe are Scotland’s first Recovery Cafe, run by people in recovery for people in recovery. The Scottish Recovery Consortium is a recovery-orientated charity; they exist to build and promote recovery from addictions in Scotland. They provided the funding to make The Wee One possible this year.
What are your hopes and dreams for the company in the future?
In the forthcoming years, Theatre Imperative will explore different ways of bringing new scripts to life. We are a new writing company whose vision is to harness and develop the talents of emerging writers and performers in Scotland. Our aim is to produce high quality inclusive theatre that addresses the interests of the local community and enriches the cultural landscape in Leith and beyond.