Casting Orwell and Ransome was not an easy task. Our first question was how much did our actors need to look like the real people? This isn’t really a biographical play, but we needed something of their physicalities. Orwell was tall and slight, there’s no getting round that, Ransome had a portlier form. Then again, by the time he passed away Orwell was nearly emaciated, and we were unlikely to find that.
At the time of casting, I didn’t really have a good grasp of Ransome’s character. Orwell was easier to describe and see in the actors: his directness, his lack of usual social etiquette, his way of jumping on a thought and chewing at it like a dog with a bone. Sometimes you need the right actor to come in and show you what you were looking for.
For a tour like this they also need to be willing. Willing to travel to a different venue every day, willing to contribute to the get-in and haul themselves to their feet after performing to do the get-out. Eastern Angles embody the word ‘company’, and that’s what we need to take on the road.
I’m very pleased to say that in Laurie Coldwell (George Orwell) and Philip Gill (Arthur Ramsome) we have such people. (Although it remains to be seen which of them will be more handy with an allen key.) They have both immersed themselves in research – ironically reading all the books that neither author would ever have wanted written! In their hands, these characters are coming alive. In Laurie’s case, Orwell is literally leaping off the stage… Intrigued? Hope so!
Red Skies, Director
PS. I haven’t side-lined Evgenia and Sonia, but I didn’t want them to be a footnote so they are getting their own blog. Just watch this space…
Red Skies opens on 18 March at the John Peel Centre, Stowmarket and plays across East Anglia until 30 May 2020.