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The Red Lion - From the Rehearsal Room by Director Max Roberts

It's the second week of rehearsals and our lovely marketing team have asked me to write a blog.

A blog is quite a new thing for me to undertake and I'm still not exactly sure what a blog is or what a blog should be.

So I thought I'd simply talk about how I'm feeling right now, right here.

It's the end of the days rehearsal.

I'm reflecting upon the past few hours endeavours half way through the process of creating a production. A production of Patrick Marber's beautiful play The Red Lion.

I'm in a rehearsal room I've known intimately for more years than I dare to remember.

So many, many plays have been created in this room, so many, many actors have moved to and fro before me and right now it all seems a distant blur - but a blur that I know is filled with fond memories. It's filled with many, many laughs and tears, much sparkle and glitz, music, mirth and magic. But above all it's filled with  thousands and thousands of moments packed with dramatic intensity that is the stuff of drama.

These nostalgic thoughts and memories make me sit back and thank my lucky stars. I'm just really, really grateful  that I've been allowed to get away with doing this as my job for so long.

It's a job I genuinely love and it's a room I genuinely love too.

I've been lucky enough to work in rehearsal rooms and halls all over the world - from Newcastle to Edinburgh, Hull, Sheffield, Birmingham to London via Belgrade, Berlin, Vienna and New York -  but this blog is about me in this rehearsal room  here and now.

A thought has just occurred.

I first sat here in this particular rehearsal room in 1985!

And I've been in it pretty much off 'n' on every year since then.

If I were to vaguely figure on 2 or possibly 3 plays a year that have been specifically created in this space then that totals something like 96 plays and productions.

That's amazing -  it's a life time!

A life in theatre!

Bloody Hell - is this what blogs do? Make you sound all precious and nostalgic?

Surely I should be writing something political and prescient!

Not sure I'll be doing another blog.

Oh, here's big Adam our stage manager - he's just walked in carrying a fridge under one arm (I told you he was big) and a 1970's leather cased football in the other  - props for a run through of Act 2 tomorrow morning.

The football reminds me that I'm rehearsing this particular play and the blog should give it more than a passing mention.

So this is how I'm thinking now having got over the nostalgia.

This play is a special play and I've chosen it because when I first encountered it I fell in love with it.

I'm genuinely thrilled, absolutely delighted and incredibly lucky to have had the opportunity to collaborate with Patrick Marber in order to create a new and especially adapted version of The Red Lion for our audiences here at  Live Theatre.

The play is now set in the semi professional world of The Northern Football League - the second oldest football league in the world.

Despite this very masculine and specific context the story possesses a universality that presents us with a forensic exploration of love and loss, paternity, belonging, loyalty and betrayal.

And despite the raw, rugged and ultimately tragic pathway it directs its characters it's a story that offers hope and humanity.

I think it's a masterful text and Patrick is a master playwright.

He's one of our country's most gifted and sought after writers - he also directs - he has 4 productions on the go here in the UK at this very moment (2 as author, 1 as author / director and 1 as director) along with countless other reincarnations of his works across the world.

I must thank our mutual close friend Lee Hall for introducing us. Patrick supports Arsenal and I am a Newcastle United supporter.

Our first meeting was at The Arsenal Stadium where The Gunners beat Newcastle easily and have done ever since.

Patrick never rubs it in - even when I remind him that once Newcastle actually came from 4 nil down at half time to draw 4 - 4 and should have been awarded a penalty to win it - and I chanted along with 50,000 other Toon fans '4 nil and you F****d it up!' to his hapless fellow Gooners sitting high up in the Leazes stand.

But I'm digressing once again.

Back to Lee Hall - he really encouraged us to create a production of this play for our audiences here at Live Theatre in the North East of England as he knew they would love it and that I'd lovingly direct it - I think he's going to be proved correct.

I'm enjoying this rehearsal not only because I love the play but because it's a beautifully embroidered narrative that fuses a rugged masculinity of bruising betrayal with soft and tender moments of pathos.

The language is lyrical and subtly layered yet at the same time the text is imbedded with steely, salty, laugh out loud humour.

We also have three fantastic actors to deliver it - watching Stephen Tompkinson, Dean Bone and the lovely Johnny Bowler is just a sheer joy.

I'd also like to mention my fantastic production team and all at Live Theatre who will help bring this play to our audiences

That's enough blogging for me - I'm going to have a pint!

Enjoy the show!




  • Arts Council England
  • Community Foundation
  • European Regional Development Fund


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