Caro Meets Theatre Interview

Josh Roche: Plastic

By | Published on Thursday 29 March 2018

Coming up at the Old Red Lion Theatre is the staging of a new play, ‘Plastic’, written by Kenneth Emson and produced by Poleroid Theatre. It sounds fascinating, not least because of its interesting format, but also for its seemingly perceptive and important themes.

To find out more about the show, I spoke to the director of the piece, award winning director Josh Roche.

CM: Can you start by telling us what the play is about? Where is it set and what story does it tell?
JR: ‘Plastic’ is set in a rough Essex school in the 1990s. Two of the characters are remembering the story and two of them are living it. As for what happens, you’ll have to buy a ticket…

CM: How would you describe the format of the piece? Does it fall into a particular genre?
JR: A rhythmic, rhyming hour long verse poem told by four voices – inspired by the language and slang of Essex and the beats of 2-step garage; essentially riffing off the rhythms and rhymes of garage and club music of the time.

CM: What themes does the play explore?
JR: There are a host of things but memory is the corner stone – it’s like ‘Hook’ meets the Essex comprehensive system. Memory is the theme around which all the others coagulate. Adults are made at school – often in violent and emotional ways. The social world of year 11 and 12 is more formidable than anything you encounter as an adult, more vindictive, cruel and unusual. We belittle teenagers at our peril. They’re the ones on the precipice, not us. So many of our adult insecurities start with the difficulties and traumas of who had the right trainers, or who bullied who. We define ourselves by the place in hierarchy we’re taught to expect as teenagers.

CM: Who are the central characters, and who plays them?
JR: There are four main characters, who were all at school around the same time. They’re played by Mark Weinman, Thomas Coombes, Madison Clare and Louis Greatorex. It’s an astoundingly talented cast, who are going out of their way to make my shoddy staging look classy.

CM: What do you like about the play? What made you want to direct it?
JR: It’s eloquent, formally daring and politically smart. So many plays wear their politics bluntly in the form of arguments or case studies for failed policies and the corridors of power. With Plastic, Kenneth Emson has written a play that articulately sets out why the lives of Essex school children are as dramatic, important and moving as the trials of Don Giovanni.

CM: Can you tell us a bit about the playwright? Has he been much involved with the production?
JR: Kenny is a writer who knows his form back to front and back again. It’s like working with an engineer who’s run his own garage for ten years – the questions of artistic choices and what we want to mean with any given moment, are therefore allowed to take precedence. Whatever we might want to do, Kenny knows how to make it happen.

CM: Can you tell us a bit about Poleroid Theatre? How did you become involved with it?
JR: Poleroid is the brain child of Molly Roberts – the best young producer I’ve worked with, and a quality actor to boot. She set up the company to produce the best and the brightest of British new writing. I came on as an associate director about two years ago. They produced one of Vinay Patel’s early plays, commissioned a collaboration between Brad Birch, Kenny and Luke Barnes, as well as hosting a whole range of artists at their Write it:Mic it nights. Molly is an inspiration in the world of new writing, especially when so many literary offices are closing. She is a real oasis for young talent. It’s a pleasure to try and further that cause.

CM: Did you always want to direct? How did you get into it?
JR: I started directing at University and then spent two years at the Soho Theatre as an associate reader. I was taken on initially as an assistant director but that grew into more of a role within the literary office. Since then it’s been persistence and a lot of assisting. I also ran my own company for several years. Last year was a big deal for me when I won the JMK Award at the Young Vic, but it came out of six years of slogging it out in the Fringe.

CM: Where do you see yourself going in the future? What plans or ambitions do you have?
JR: I want to make politically moving work with people who I admire and enjoy working with. I’m not someone who has a particular building in their sights or a particular piece of work. I’m looking forward to maybe working with the RSC Musical department more by directing text in concerts. I have projects rolling with Ben Musgrave and Joe White, as well as a few old plays I’d love to dust off… but none of that is confirmed yet.

CM: What’s coming up next for you?
JR: As of May I am officially unemployed – so if anyone needs a director!

‘Plastic’ is on at the Old Red Lion Theatre from 3- 21 Apr, see the venue website here for more information and to book.

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