Opening a series of Look Back in Anger production updates, director Dominic Kelly explains why it’s so important to him that the project will reach out to a rural community

Dominic Kelly: Director

Dominic Kelly: Director

 

 

As a boy raised in a small village in the Lincolnshire countryside, my outlook in the world was particularly flat; surrounded by endless fields, I could see the church in the next village six miles away. There were very few trees and absolutely no hills, so my perspective on life was ‘what you see is what you get’.

With a mother who was a nervous driver, especially at night, activities to broaden my world view such as karate, Scouts or even the cinema, were not available to me. There was no internet: my best friends were the four channels on the TV, a Sega Megadrive and an endless imagination.

Until, that is, a theatre company came to town and caused quite the stir by providing unconventional workshops, treating the kids who enrolled in them as adults, and encouraging a curious and anti-normalised outlook on life. I rolled all over the floor pretending to be an amoeba, we were sentenced to life in prison for a non-stop fully-immersive three hours, we were led through exercises that made us reflect on who we were and who we could be.

The local council was wary and the local papers didn’t know how to report what we were doing. Some parents spread poisonous rumours about the people running the group. Luckily, we were also producing crowd-pleasing musicals like My Fair Lady and Joseph, so the more edgy work in our weekly sessions was largely obscured by the smokescreen of jazz hands and sequins.

As a teenager, I realised country life was not for me; I had no history of farming in my family and no ties to the land. London shone like a beacon, and my sole aim was to live there, work there and be free and happy.

1933745_6136905486_7186_n

Playing one of the brothers in Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat

Back to my roots

Among the tall buildings, industry and crowds, something began to niggle away at me. After 20 years away from the country, I was being drawn back, but this time I wanted hills. The novelty of not knowing what was round the corner, with trees obscuring my view, was calling out to me; a call back to the wild.

As I arrived in Shropshire, it all came flooding back: how a theatre practitioner changed my life, gave me hope, and made me appreciate my innate creativity. How lost I was, and how I saw no real future for myself. By having experienced youth theatre, I was inspired to follow a career in the arts, leading me to become a teacher, director, producer and an actor. What a gift!

Other friends from my youth theatre days went to work in telly, became linguists, worked in publishing – looking at the people I spent evenings after school with, I see that the influence of theatre spreads much further than its own art form; each person I trained with then has pursued an occupation that fulfils them.

Dom Teaching Cairo

Dominic working with teenagers in Cairo, Egypt

Osborne and After

Naturally, I wanted to offer other young people the same opportunities, and so here I am, working with my neighbours to create their first theatre arts festival (Osborne and After), celebrating the life and work of John Osborne; who is buried in Clun. After a successful Arts Council funding bid put together by local residents, I was able to run workshops with a local secondary school, allowing 20 11 to 14-year-olds an insight into the Meisner Technique, improvisation, stage combat and devising. Some of the group will be able to work with The salon:collective’s actors in rehearsal early next month, as we put the final touches to our flagship production of Look Back in Anger for the festival. Arts Awards are also on offer (in a schools-based programme for young creatives similar to the Duke of Edinburgh award scheme), as well as workshops for older residents with myself and the cast.

After hearing recently that the Clun Amateur Dramatic Society has decided to fold due to a drop in younger members, this new injection of enthusiasm for theatre is more vital than ever.

If I can help grow a healthy attitude to the arts in my new community, I will be proudly paying back my debt to Geoff Cresswell and the ACT Theatre Company, who changed my and many other teenagers’ lives for the better in 1996.

Look Back in Anger is at Clun Memorial Hall, Shropshire on May 7 as part of the Osborne and After festival. Read what Dom’s pre-performance workshop participants thought. Catch up with more production news and the cast’s video rants

 

Jimmy and Alison Porter (Simon Donohue and Alison Latham) rehearsing for Dom's 60th anniversary production of Look Back in Anger

Jimmy and Alison Porter (Simon Donohue and Alison Latham) rehearsing for Dom’s 60th anniversary production of Look Back in Anger

4 Comments

  • Dom, As a grateful and happy member of your Look Back In Anger cast, your blog caused me to turn back in time to a period of discretionary grants and funded arts education. As halcyon and golden as the pre-1914 England so fondly and sadly recalled by Colonel Redfern in our play. As the son of a serving Army officer, I felt a sense of incarceration. School holidays stretched into the distant horizon. I had an air rifle; the woods around our house or ‘quarters’, a lot of books into which I escaped frequently and an imagination. I owe my time at drama school to two people: John Queen, one of the education councillors at Carlisle City Council, and my mother, a portion of whose salary meant that U didn’t have to moonlight as a barman whilst at drama school. I was given help and encouragement by older people. It would be nice to repay this in some way through our production. Footnote: Playing in Shropshire is something of a homecoming for me as my father was based near Wellington for part of his career.

  • Clun Amateur dramatics also used to partake in the Llandrindod wells Drama Week back in the 1960″s this was a festival that inspired me, it was held in a beautiful victorian theatre which is still in existence called the Albert Hall. Clun carnivals were also a big diary entry !!

    • Dominic Kelly says:

      Thanks, Vivienne. Hopefully, Clun will rebuild it’s drama group. Lovely to know it inspired you. I’ll be sure to pass on the message to the community. Clun Green Man festival is next weekend and I’m definitely attending!

  • Jennie Westerman says:

    Dominic, your production of Look Back in Anger was superb, the casting inspired and I feel emotional weeks after the event as I recall acts.

    The actors played their parts perfectly and as the daughter of a serving RAF officer, I want to tell you that, Simon’s portrayal of the father, was exactly as my father would have reacted and spoken.

    Everyone I spoke to at the end of the play was full of admiration and all said it was the best production of Look Back in Anger they had ever seen. I understand Michael Billington from The Guardian attended The Derby Theatre production, I wish he and other critics had attended yours, I am confident they would have been extremely impressed. You and the actors deserve tremendous, positive publicity

    You clearly have an enormous talent and I sincerely hope more people will have the opportunity of experiencing it.

Leave a Reply