Caro Meets Theatre Interview

Niall Ransome – FCUK’D

By | Published on Monday 11 December 2017

The latest show over at The Bunker is ‘FCUK’D’, a one man show written entirely in verse, which tells the story of a teenage boy forced to care for his younger brother, who decides to flee his home to escape scrutiny from the authorities.
I was intrigued from the moment I heard about the play, so made time to find out more about the show from playwright and director Niall Ransome.

CM: Can you start by telling us what story the show tells?
NR: The show tells the story of two young lads who run away from their council estate flat in search of a better life. It’s ‘Boy’, our protagonist’s decision, as he acts as a young carer to Mattie, is not willing to let the social services take him away, and so decides to kidnap him and go on the run.

CM: Where does the narrative take us?
NR: The play starts at Mattie’s school as Boy is picking him up, and after arriving home, they decide to run away. The play itself takes us on a journey exploring what it means to run away from home and the problems young people face when on their own.

CM: Who is the main focus of the piece?
NR: Although the main character Boy takes us through the story, and it is he that talks to us throughout, I feel it is very much Mattie at the centre. He is the reason the play happens, and as with many young carers in the UK, in this case Boy, the people they care for become the priority.

CM: What are the themes that the play explores?
NR: Child runaways and young carers in the UK are the issues that drive the story. Boy is a young carer, and it’s feelings of abandonment by the system that forces the two to run away. They face many things young children who run away face. Where do they go? What will they eat? Who do they turn to??

CM: What inspired the story line of the play?
NR: I knew I wanted to write about some of my experiences in Hull, and going to a rougher school, I knew a lot of people from less fortunate backgrounds. When thinking about school I always remember the loyalty we all had for each other. The camaraderie. This feeling of standing by each other and a family like bond stuck with me. The brothers on the run idea came soon after.

CM: What made you want to create a theatrical piece about the issues the show highlights?
NR: I never wrote the play initially focusing on the political aspects, they just sort of grew. I always focused on the characters and the story at first. I feel it’s through caring about the characters and what happens to them that an audience can connect more deeply with an issue. They leave hopefully having a bit more understanding about a person the issue is affecting as opposed to a bunch of facts and figures. 100,000 children run away from home each year and a census from 2011 showed that over a quarter of a million people under 19 were caring for siblings, elders or others. I do feel these are voices we shouldn’t ignore.

CM: So there an element of the political about it?
NR: Most plays are political, in a way. It definitely has a lot to say about a voice in Britain still not always heard and listened to. A forgotten voice that has been lost and ignored. Also, there is still a massive stigma in society about how we view groups of people. It’s easy to put people in a box because they wear a certain type of clothing, or come from a certain place.

CM: It’s a one man show, entirely in verse…. what made you decide to make it a solo piece, and why poetry?
NR: It started as a monologue initially, and I liked that an audience could build who Mattie was in their mind without being shown. Strangely I felt it made it more personal. The verse just sort of happened. Hull is rich in poetry, really, with Philip Larkin and Stevie Smith to boast about, plus I feel the northern accent suits it so well. There are many northern writers who have used poetry and verse in their work to great effect. I wanted the whole play to be a poem because it felt right.

CM: You’re also directing – does the fact that you’ve written it yourself affect your approach?
NR: A little bit, but I feel in a positive way. I know the play so well now and I think the connection I have to it allows me to be specific and detailed. I’m good at being strict on myself so from the beginning have allowed it to change and grow.

CM: How did you go about casting it? Was it not a role you wanted to take yourself? Or did you have Will Mytum in mind from the start?
NR: I have performed it myself a few times, when I first wrote it and at various scratch nights. I performed it at the VAULT Festival earlier this year which was great, but being busy myself, my priority was getting the play on, and when the opportunity at the Bunker came up I decided to direct it instead. I’ve known Will for years now, and always knew if I couldn’t do it any more, he would take the role. It’s been great getting to work with him!

CM: Thus far you’ve mostly been acting, and this is your first play, I think? Is writing something you’ll continue to pursue, or is treading the boards your main priority?
NR: It is my first play, yeah! So very exciting and nerve-wracking at the same time. I’ve always liked writing and it definitely something I want to do more of in the future. But I’m an actor primarily so won’t stop that. Writing and acting go together so well, they’re two different ways of exploring and creating story.

CM: What ambitions do you have for the future?
NR: I want to continue writing and acting. They’re both very difficult professions to predict your future and I feel if you focus on certain parts or places too much you don’t appreciate the jobs or the work you’re doing at that time. My ambitions are to be proud of the work I’m doing and being involved in good work I believe in.

CM: What’s coming up next for you after this?
NR: I’m currently in ‘The Comedy About a Bank Robbery’, until February. Then after that I’ll be back in the audition circuit which is exciting. There’s plans hopefully to take FCUKD on and I’m currently working on my second play so hopefully next year will be another busy one.

‘FCUK’D’ is on at The Bunker until 30 Dec. For more information and to book tickets, see this page here.

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Photo: Andrea Lambis