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Plays
Audience with Murder
 
DQ Blues
 
Talking, Talking Heads
 
 
April in Paris
     
The Balance
 
The Company
About Us
 

Leda Hodgson
 
 Artistic Directors
 
West End Live
Workshops
Brighton
2006
Waterloo Place

Belfast


About Us

The company was originally created as ‘A Load of Old Cheek’ and as the title may suggest, was comprised of former members of Cheek by Jowl.

This seemed like a good idea at the time, but was very limiting. There were not that many ex members who were available to take part at the time.


The first production was my adaptation of
‘The Daughter of Time’ by Josephine Tey.

It had taken a few years to complete and the piece was rewritten many times, starting off on a typewriter and completed on an Amstrad.

As no other companies were interested in it and
the constant rejection letters were becoming depressing, I decided to put it on myself.

The rights proved difficult to get but they agreed to let me do 4 performances to see how it went.


I chose the Georgian Theatre in Richmond as the ideal venue for the show. I felt the play’s subject matter, an investigation into the supposed murder of the Princes in The Tower by Richard III, might appeal to the local audience. It is also a beautiful theatre with a great pub next door, The Black Lion.
 

This still left me with a small dilemma, I had no money and the bank wouldn’t lend me any.

So, this was when it helps to have a few friends.
Fortunately I hadn’t ostracised myself from everyone in the business, and support grew.

First, Pete Sargent and I built and painted the set from old scenery up at Hanger Services. I knew I had to do this in advance and then leave it in a corner for a few months.

 

I then did the poster and leaflets and started calling people to take part. I managed to cast most of the show from Cheek by Jowl’s ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ company.

Leda was doing rep in Harrogate but Annie White, Steph Bramwell, Clare LeMay and Paul Sykes agreed to come and play. Colin Wakefield put me on to Trevor Penton but I couldn’t find anyone to play the lead.

Geof Towers had agreed to do it but then called to say he was filming in Canada, apparently having made a mistake in his diary.

With 2 weeks to go I placed an ad in The Stage. I can’t say that the prospect of doing a play for expenses only and with only a couple of weeks to learn it appealed to many of the fraternity, especially when they found out where we were going to rehearse.
 
    I saw a few people, but nobody really seemed
  to have the enthusiasm which was going to
  be necessary to pull it off.

  With 10 days to go and convinced that the
  whole project was about to collapse, the
  phone rang. The caller had seen the ad and
  wondered if the part was still going.

  Two hours later, I was saved by Nick Frost.
 

He didn’t seem bothered about rehearsing in our front room, and managed to convince me that he could learn it. So with Frostie, as we came to know him, on board, everything fell into place.
 
I had already done a bit of pre publicity with Paul. We took some shots in Westminster Abbey of him and the Tomb where the Prince's are supposed to
be buried.

Our living room was soon converted into a hospital and rehearsals took shape

The idea was to make the show look and sound
as if it was film in the 1950's like the old Doctor in the House series
  Sadly this is the only colour shot with Trevor
  warming up
Annie had a great time. The National Theatre Costume Hire and some original period Channel Dresses just her size
  Cast from left to right

  Steph, Annie, Clare, Frostie, Paul & Trevor

I’m not convinced that Frostie ever really learnt the whole play, there were a few times that he just glazed over, but we all had a good time. Thanks also go to Chrissie for the costumes, Ceri and Liz for the props, Rob
for the fit up and Pete again for lighting and running the show.

Although the production was a success, I now found that we were not able to do further performances because we were denied the rights. This was fairly frustrating, and with nowhere to keep the set, the show was skipped, literally. I decided the thing to do was to write something original next time to avoid this happening again.
 
Working with Frostie, I soon learnt that he was a great storyteller and that he was at his most fruitful over a drink.

One of his stories was about when he was a chef in the Navy and I thought that this would make a good one man show, so we got together over the next
few months to talk.

The process was that we would go to the pub with
a cassette recorder, have a few drinks, and he
would talk about his life and times in the Navy.

I then constructed a play from the tapes, which because it is set in a Detention Quarantine centre
of a Navy Prison, I called ‘D Q Blues’.

Leda also had a project that she wanted to do. This was an adaptation of Barbara Pym’s book
‘No Fond Return of Love’. So we decided to produce a double bill and put it on at The Man in the Moon.
 
  Unfortunately the company name would now
  have more relevance if it were called A Couple of
  Old Cheek, so a new one was sought.

  Leda had the idea of calling it Makita Theatre
  after the Makita drill, which is used by stage
  crew and is often the solution to a scenery
  problem. (The most common term used during a
  fit up is ‘Who’s got the bloody Makita’.)

  We realised that this might cause copyright
  problems but then discovered that the Greek
  word ‘Maketa’ means idea or plan.

  So Theatre Maketa was born.

Patricia Doyle directed Leda, Harriet Keevil and Catherine Harding in ‘No Fond Return of Love’ with Angus MacKechnie helping out with the production and running the shows.
 
We had the usual problems with the rights, which I still fail to understand.

You would think publishers would welcome adaptations which might open up works to a larger audience.

They should at least give you an opportunity to try something out. It depends on whether you agree with the Beckett Police principle or not.

Anyway, an agreement was eventually reached.

 

  Sets and costumes were cobbled together in the
  usual fashion. Our own furniture that had appeared
  in countless shows was utilised again. We still get
  calls from people wanting to borrow the chairs.

  I built the set for my show at Hoxton Hall and
  Mike Jackson transported it in his camper van.

  Clare LeMay sorted out publicity and Frostie
  blagged his uniform from Navy stores.

  The Times promised to come to the opening and
  do a photo and article about the shows, and we
  thought everything would be Hunky Dory.
 
Well, for a start, the Times didn’t turn up.

I did write to Benedict Nightingale and complain about this and received a promise for our next
show and although most people who came
seemed to enjoy the shows, we did not do very
well at the box office.

Despite a good piece in Time Out with a photo
and ad, we still failed to tempt a large audience.

 

  I seem to remember Frostie warning me that we
  had chosen the wrong venue, and he was
  probably right.

  The Fringe in London is highly competitive and
  you really have to have something about your
  show to pull people in.

  We would have done better performing
  in regional studio theatres.

 
He had the worst of it as well, with poor audiences for DQ Blues.

Acting can be hard, lonely work sometimes for all the wrong reasons.

But we soldiered on for 4 weeks, and the cast always turned in decent performances.

 


Disappointed that the project was not a financial success, and with our loss scenario far worse than expected, we decided to delay our future plans. The Arts Council were not prepared to help until they had seen more of our work, and we both needed to earn a living.

I decided that I wanted to write something completely original, and I had several ideas that I wanted to pursue. However, I could never quite find the time to finish these projects until now. Friends came up with other ideas which were worth investing in and you always learn something from the experience.
 
  Geof had a production of Henry V he wanted to do.
 
  It is still a good idea and one that I'm sure we will
  do at some stage. Just because things don't work
  out at the time doesn't mean that they are doomed
  forever.

  You can always returned to unfinished projects.
Then Iain Rogerson came up with the idea of producing John Godber’s plays in The Middle East.

I must admit that this did not jump out at me screaming what a great idea.

With John's approval I produced some promotional work for Bouncers, as this is the play that is probably best know, and it did created some interest.

From when we first started working on ‘Bouncers’
to finally doing performances of ‘April in Paris’ in February 2003 took about 3 years. Although it was
a successful show, war broke out a month later and the tour was cancelled.

We had the first reading of my new play The Balance in September 2003 and I am now looking for the right venue to produce it in. It was while looking for venues that I decided to build my own: Theatre Truck.
This was an idea that I had years ago, but never had the time or money to build. It opened at Edinburgh in 2005 with three productions, DQ Blues, Talking Talking Heads and Audience with Murder.
Although it rained for 3 weeks in Edinburgh, it was very worthwhile. We have since taken Talking, Talking Heads to Tunbridge Wells, Sevenoaks and Waterloo Place and next February, Audience with Murder will be produced by Double Honours Productions in association with Theatre Maketa at the Jermyn Street Theatre in London.
In January 2006, Theatre Truck will be taking part in the Belfast Festival for 3 weeks.

Nick Kidd
Director

 

 

Theatre Maketa
70 Fulham Palace Road
London W6 9PL
UK

07951 006 602
E-mail: nick@theatremaketa.co.uk