It was an absolute pleasure, as always, to catch up with producer Siobhan Noble of RTB Productions and get the lowdown on their upcoming production of Shakers, written by John Godber and Jane Thornton, as part of the Liverpool Theatre Festival.
Like most involved in theatre, Noble has had to put many a well-made plan on the backburner in 2020, so when opportunity came calling from fellow producer Bill Elms to feature in this outdoor theatre spectacle she jumped at the chance and began kicking ideas round with fellow creatives Margaret Connell, Jennifer Vaudrey, and Danielle McLauren.
In a moment of life imitates art – two of the crew work part-time in bars –a play presented by four waitresses, each under pressure in different ways, and which describes a typical night at a bar called Shakers, suddenly seemed the obvious choice. Written as a sister piece to Bouncers, which went on to be one of the most successful plays of all time, Shakers was conceived in 1985, specifically dealing with issues of the time, most notably high unemployment.
Noble got in touch with Godber first to get permission to perform the play and found him very supportive. Secondly she had to broach the slightly more difficult subject of its language and content – it was originally performed by Hull Truck Theatre Company – and found Godber in complete agreement. He had in fact updated Bouncers for a revival performance in 2018 at Liverpool’s Royal Court, where he is a patron, and was keen to see Shakers similarly refreshed and happy to entrust that responsibility to Noble and director Connell so we have very much a modern-day Scouse-revival on offer.
Noble has had to give consideration to not only the socially distanced performance but also to the rehearsal process and the cast selection was driven partly by who’d been involved in the choice of play as well as those who naturally fell into the RTB circle and were close and available for the production, which sees McLauren and Vaudrey take on the roles of Carol and Nicky respectively, and brings Alice Bunker-Whitney as Adele and Isobel Balchin as Mel into the fold, although all are called upon to play a large number of different characters, who have to be amusing, sensitive, and real, whilst using no extra props and relying on their physical skills and mime.
RTB Productions was established following a live improvised performance on election night last year with the intention of making exciting and engaging work that will reach out to a new theatre audience. Many have trumpeted that call but it is refreshing in talking with Noble to see that she is one of the few that recognise that it will not be achieved through traditional venues, but rather by going out into the community and taking theatre to the people, and presenting plays whose themes are recognisable to their everyday lives, so Shakers at St Luke’s Bombed-Out Church in the centre of Liverpool offers up an ideal combination.
Noble has a few more irons in the fire so exciting times are on offer when we pull out the other side of the pandemic although in the meanwhile she is happily thinking outside of the box to keep us entertained. She’s definitely one to watch.
Shakers performs on 15th September at 19:30 as part of the inaugural Liverpool Theatre Festival that runs from 11th – 19th September at St Luke’s Bombed-Out Church, providing live performances of musical theatre, drama, comedy, cabaret, and children’s shows in a Covid-safe environment. Details and tickets for all productions are available at https://www.liverpooltheatrefestival.com/