12th July 2019
Next week Trinity Theatre Club stage their production of Taking Steps a farcical comedy by Alan Ayckbourn. The play’s director Kirrie Wratten tells the Times more about it . . .
Why did you decide to do Taking Steps as a production?
Trinity Theatre Club (TTC) was looking for a small cast comedy which would contrast with its spring production of Albee’s Three Tall Women, and also with the large cast period comedy planned it has planned for October. I knew that Alan Ayckbourn would satisfy the brief. He is a master of comic theatre and I was fortunate enough to direct his play Private Fears in Public Spaces for TTC in 2017.
What is Taking Steps essentially about?
Misunderstanding and miscommunication. It is about people who are either literally, or metaphorically, trapped. At a time when sexual equality was in its infancy, it is about women trying to find their own freedom.
What appealed to you about the play as a director?
It’s his skill of being able to combine the humanity of real characters with often hilarious comedy, in the situation in which he places these flawed characters. Ayckbourn has described Taking Steps as his only true farce, and these elements were certainly one of its attractions. Directing Taking Steps was described by the playwright as being closer to directing traffic than directing a play!
Tell us about the actors you’ve cast in Taking Steps . . .
I am fortunate to be working with a very strong cast which includes some professionally trained actors; most of whom have worked with me before.
What do you think audiences will enjoy most about it?
It’s a play that can boast all the joy and humour of farce, but with a dark underbelly. As What’s On Stage described the 2010 revival of it in Richmond; it’s ‘comedy bliss.’
What tricky elements were there to staging this piece?
One of the trickiest elements in staging Taking Steps is adapting a play designed for a theatre in the round space (such as Scarborough’s Stephen Joseph Theatre, where Alan Ayckbourn’s plays are always premiered). Happily, because the audience look down on to the stage at Trinity, this feature of the space solved part of the difficulty. Secondly, our designer, Andy Newell, is both a very experienced Stage Designer, and also very familiar with Trinity. His design supports the action of the play, but also ensures the sightlines work for the audience.
How often do you work with Trinity and why do you enjoy doing so?
I have worked with Trinity, on and off, in various roles since 1996. In the past few years, I have directed for the company about once a year. TTC is a vibrant club with many talented and hard-working members. As a director I can work with people who share the same passion for theatre and the same commitment to producing the best possible shows. As a community, we are fortunate in Tunbridge Wells that we still have our own local theatre and arts centre.
What do you like about directing in general?
Theatre directing is a job of infinite variety; you can be researching railways in rural Russia in the late nineteenth century one minute, and Victorian brothels the next. One play will benefit from chamber music by Mozart, another from contemporary jazz, and another by Dire Straits songs. Best of all, though, is working with the actors and the creative team. Everyone contributes their own piece of magic, and the playwright’s words on the flat page are transformed into the live performance the audience enjoys.
What plans do you have to work with Trinity again in the near future?
I shall be directing Tom Stoppard’s The Real Thing in April next year. Meanwhile audiences can look forward to TTC’s autumn production of The Man Who Came to Dinner, a brilliantly witty, and much loved, comedy by Moss Hart and George S Kaufman, which will be directed by the inimitable Helen Thorpe.
Taking Steps runs at Trinity Theatre from Tuesday July 16 to Saturday July 20. Tickets cost from £15 and can be booked at trinitytheatre.net