Opening this week is High Ridin’ at the King’s Head Theatre, a comedy drama that turns the ‘boy moves to big city’ story on its head. Dave Cross spoke to director Peter Darney to get the lowdown.
Hi Peter, how would you describe High Ridin’?
High Ridin’ is a heart-warming new gay comedy drama. Teenage twink Ronnie travels to the North to find a job and a new life. Ex-bouncer Stan, just out of prison, gives him a lift. But when Ronnie passes out in the car, Stan takes him back to the house he just inherited, only to find his evil aunt stealing the furniture, a festering kitchen and a mouse drowned in Bisto. The three lives unexpectedly collide, forcing them to face the past for a better future.
Can you tell us about the characters?
There are three characters in the show. Ronnie has just run away from home in London, and is exploring life and the world. He is streetwise, confident, has lots of self respect and a little bit of sass. Stan is a grouchy, acerbic and very witty DILF, who is struggling to make sense of his life having just come out of prison and inherited his dads run-down guest house. Aunty Ivy is a fiery and forthright lady who had a chequered past, but saw the light when she married the church warden and is now generally a little disapproving of everybody else.
We are used to stories about young guys travelling from the North and meeting unscrupulous characters, so this sounds like it turns that on it’s head in both ways?
Ronnie is traveling to the North, and is probably a bit of an unscrupulous character himself! This play is not like any other I have read, it is a unique story and the characters are unexpected. And its great to remind Londoners that there is something beyond the M25.
What was it about the play that made you want to direct it?
The writer James Hogan’s dialogue is fantastic. It’s witty, pacy and very real and I love the way that each of the characters grow throughout the play. I also think it gently looks at issues like intergenerational homophobia, what it is to be gay in a small town and how age effects us; all narratives I felt really keen to tell.
Can you tell us about the cast?
Linda Becket is our grand dame, and is a real veteran actress who has worked several times with Mike Leigh including in the film Secrets and Lies. Tom Michael Blyth plays Stan and was recently nominated for a Manchester Evening Standard Award, and newcomer Chi-Cho Tiche featured in the new Disney Series School Hacks which comes out in September. I have a really lovely cast, it’s been such a joy to work with them. They are all extremely playful yet focused and are all round lovely people to be around. Going to work has been a joy.
What would you like people to take away from High Ridin’?
I Would like the audience to come away feeling warm, hopeful, and to have thought about forgiveness. That bridges can be rebuilt. That people do change. That we all deserve a second chance.
High Ridin’ is at the King’s Head Theatre from 4 until 22 September at 7pm, Sunday matinées at 4pm, at 115 Upper Street, Islington, N1.
Tickets from kingsheadtheatre.com