Caro Meets Theatre Interview

George Richmond-Scott: Small Change

By | Published on Friday 10 September 2021

Coming up this week at Clapham’s Omnibus Theatre is a revival of Peter Gill’s acclaimed play ‘Small Change’, courtesy of up and coming new company Both Barrels Theatre.

The production has been brought together by a fab team, and it’s great to see this work back on stage again in London.

To find out more about the production and the company, I had a chat with OFFIE-nominated George Richmond-Scott, director of the play and founder of Both Barrels Theatre.

CM: Many readers will be aware of ‘Small Change’, but for those who aren’t, can you give us an idea of what to expect from the play? What story does it tell?
GR-S: It’s a beautifully written story of a broken person who goes back home to find the answer to why their life has turned out the way it has. They revisit a vibrant childhood past and confront the lost love of their life. It’s about the human quest for meaning, liberation from the past, and growing up to take ownership of who you are on your own terms.

CM: What themes does the play explore?
GR-S: The play is very rich thematically. It’s a deep dive into family ties and how our parents influence us. It examines mental health and the ways people cope when they have no real support.

It’s also about love, and the difference between true love and a more dependent needy kind of wanting, and it looks closely at how you heal and move on when you lose an important love in your life.

Finally, it is also full of warmth, energy and a salty sort of wit that we have been enjoying a lot in the rehearsal room.

CM: Lots of readers will no doubt be aware of the work of Peter Gill, but for those who aren’t, can you tell us a bit about him?
GR-S: Peter Gill is a highly accomplished and respected theatre director and playwright. He was a successful actor first who went on to direct at the Royal Court in the 60s.

He first put on ‘Small Change’ there himself in 1976 and later ran the Riverside Studios, and was an associate director at the National Theatre.

One of his great achievements there was setting up the NT Studio that supports new work. His more recent play ‘The York Realist’ was revived at the Donmar a few years ago by Robert Hastie to great critical acclaim.

CM: What made you want to revive ‘Small Change’ now? Why is this a good time to do it?
GR-S: I first wanted to make this happen over two years ago. We postponed it to raise more funding and then COVID hit. I think the play speaks to our growing awareness of mental health and shows both how far we have come in our support of mental illness since the 50s and 70s when it is set, but also how far we have yet to go to really destigmatise it.

It’s timeless in its exploration of love and family, but its centring of a damaged person trying to find peace and a sense of hope also feels very relevant to the precarious world we currently live in, where as a race we are perhaps more fully realising our vulnerability and fallibility.

CM: Can you tell me about the rest of the creative team involved in bringing this to the stage?
GR-S: They are a dream team to work with. Liam Bunster has designed the set and costumes and created a very flexible and abstract world, that the characters can both interact with in highly playful physical ways, but later feel trapped and cornered in as the story develops. He has worked at the Wanamaker Playhouse and the RSC and has a really great imagination for how to use space to support dynamic storytelling.

We also have a super movement director, Rachel Wise, who has done a lot of deep work with the actors on embodying the characters and exploring the world of the play. Our sound designer Lex Kosanke and lighting designer Ali Hunter are both talented, experienced up and coming artists who are supporting the play and its story in bold, creative ways.

CM: Can you tell me about your cast?
GR-S: I am having a wonderful time working with all four of them. Andy Rush plays Gerard, Sioned Jones is his mum, Mrs Harte. Tameka Mortimer plays her neighbour Mrs Driscoll and Toby Gordon is Vincent, her son whom Gerard loves. They are a brilliant team who have bonded strongly together.

Every day they come up with exciting offers and ideas for how to realise a story that is complex and slippery in the way it shifts between times, locations, reality and memory. They are also very good at playing the warm-up game Toby invented, bucket ball, with our bucket prop that has a little story all of its own in the first act!

CM: Tell me about Both Barrels Theatre – what are the company’s aims?
GR-S: We are a new theatre company based in London and south Somerset. Our work is visually imaginative and verbally heightened with strong, integrated movement work at its centre and evocative sound design. We want to make theatre that distills the truth of human experience and reflects it back.

We believe it’s crucial that people feel art is accessible. We have a strong desire to share work widely and interact meaningfully with diverse audiences. As we grow we have ambitions to produce challenging, idiosyncratic works and to support new writing.

CM: How has this production been affected by the recent lockdowns?
GR-S: It’s been tough! We had to cancel the Somerset tour dates of ‘Small Change’, which was gutting as Rachel Wise and I had been down twice to lead workshops with students and adults based on the play, and I had booked it into Strode Theatre and started to make other connections in the county.

In the end we chose to delay taking work there so we could make this play happen and keep going. It’s really important to me that the next project doesn’t get stuck in London.

CM: What about you? How did you come to be working in the arts? What steps have you taken to forge your career?
GR-S: I’ve been working in theatre a long time. I was an actor briefly who became a voice coach, worked in drama schools and at the RSC, and became more and more interested in directing.

I took myself back to train six years ago and completed an MFA in directing at Birkbeck and the Crucible Theatre in Sheffield. Since then I have directed my own adaptation of ‘Blood Wedding’, worked as associate director on ‘Everybody’s Talking About Jamie’ for over three years, and directed in several drama schools.

CM: What hopes and ambitions do you have for the future?
GR-S: I was recently appointed Head Of Performance at ALRA South and I’m excited to explore that role now and support the school in its development as it makes bold moves toward being a truly diverse and inclusive conservatoire. I also plan to direct more projects externally through Both Barrels and want to work more on new writing and theatre that melds acting and movement in exciting, visually arresting ways.

CM: What’s coming up next for you after this?
GR-S: I’m directing the final year students showcase later in the year at ALRA and making plans for my next project with Both Barrels. I’ve been so lucky to work with all the amazing artists, and training artists I have so far in my life, and look forward to doing a whole lot more of that.

‘Small Change’ is on at the Omnibus Theatre from 14 Sep-2 Oct. Visit the venue website here for more information and to book tickets.

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