Caro Meets Theatre Interview

Ken McClymont: Playground

By | Published on Thursday 15 October 2015

The latest production to go up at the Old Red Lion theatre reunites acclaimed artist and director Ken McClymont with hit-making playwright Peter Hamilton, following the staging earlier in the year of previous collaboration ‘Bridlington’.


Given that ‘Bridlington’ was so successful, I was eager to hear more about the follow up, ‘Playground’, so put some questions to the show’s director, ahead of its London run.

CM: Can you tell us a bit about ‘Playground’? What’s the basic premise?
KM: Playground is open to many interpretations, like most art it can be viewed from various perspectives. In basic terms, the plot centres around the Famous Five novels, an odd collection of individuals starting a Book Club, and police trying to find a child killer in Victoria Park.

CM: Does the show have any particular points to make or themes that it explores?
KM: It highlights a certain strata of society that are lost and the easy option of dishing out prescription drugs to try to solve the problem. The play doesn’t answer the problem, it quantifies the dilemma.

CM: What attracted you to this? What appeals to you about the play?
KM: I love the originality of the writing, the story, the well defined characters, and because Playground asks us questions about ourselves and those around us. It doesn’t try to educate us in a patronising way, it creates openings for discussion with affection, compassion and humour.

CM: The subject matter is extremely dark-sounding, yet it’s described as comic. What kind of audience is this suitable for…? Is it a challenge, making something gruesome be funny?
KM: Personally I think it is suitable for anyone who enjoys theatre. Peter creates interesting characters in slightly odd scenarios. It can be a challenge to make something gruesome funny however the clever platform device of Enid Blyton’s books as a starting point helps layer both the humour and pathos in the piece.

CM: You’ve directed the work of playwright Peter Hamilton before, haven’t you? Can you tell us a bit more about him and his work? Is he hands on or hands off type?
KM: I was very fortunate to be introduced to Peter by the Rosemary Branch Theatre where we worked on ‘Bridlington’ and we seem to have a good understanding of our working preferences. He can be and is extremely funny and is always appreciative of hard work. I enjoy having him in rehearsals as I know how lucky it is to do most of my work with living playwrights. Actors can ask probing questions of the writer which I may not be able to answer. I’m grateful that Peter and the actors trust my judgement.

CM: Can you tell us a bit about the cast? Is there a ‘lead’ or is this more of an ensemble piece?
KM: I’ve worked with two of the cast, (Richard Fish and Christopher James Barley) previously on Peter’s ‘Bridlington’ The seven strong cast play diametrically opposite people and they have voices that tell their stories with great passion and intent. It is a very strong ensemble cast who are enjoying a huge challenge every night.

CM: Are there any plans for the play following this current run?
KM: At the minute I’m not sure what the plans are. Naturally it would be great to see ‘Playground’ have a long life as it has a touching social message and should be seen.

CM: What new projects do you have coming up?
KM: I’m excited at potentially directing a new play by a new writer about the last few days of William Blake’s life. I trained and practice as a fine artist so between projects I create and try to exhibit abstract painting.

‘Playground’ is on at Old Red Lion theatre until 7 Nov. See this page here for more info and to book tickets.

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