By Anna Ryder (Assistant Director, Wet House)
This month sees Paddy Campbell’s fantastic Wet House return to Live Theatre and the rehearsals (re-rehearsals for some!) are well under way. The revival welcomes the return of most of the original cast but with the addition of Simon Roberts taking over the part of Spencer. I am also new to the team as assistant director to Max Roberts, and so far working on the production has proved to be an incredibly rewarding experience.
The rehearsals began with an initial read-through of the play. I was aware that the cast were not approaching the text entirely afresh, but I was entirely blown away by how animated the session was. It seemed that the heart of the characters had been retained somewhere within the memory of the cast and the narrative remained entirely compelling even when performed in such a stripped back way.
As part of the research process, we all paid an afternoon visit to Jarrow: the setting of the play and also the location of the real wet house in which Paddy once worked.
As a bright start to the adventure we began with a trip Bede’s World, an attraction that is regularly frequented by Dinger, one of the residents of our fictional hostel. Though we were welcomed with a lot more enthusiasm than Dinger would perhaps receive, his visits being fuelled by copious amounts of booze and a misplaced affection for the gift shop attendant. After an exploration of the adjoining farm (for research purposes of course!) we ventured further into Jarrow to view the ex-wet house building, which now lies empty and somewhat derelict.
On the approach I was surprised by the location of the hostel. I had imagined that it would be in the middle of nowhere in a ‘out of sight, out of mind’ kinda way, but although on the outskirts of an industrial park, the building is also surrounded by several residential streets. From the stories that Paddy told us of the hostel’s residents I wouldn’t like to contemplate the complaints they would have received from neighbouring households!
I had imagined a rundown building with a slightly grotty appearance, when in reality the building was purpose built in the 80’s and looked entirely unthreatening. It was bizarre and equally fascinating to see the sites of resident’s escapades, Paddy regaled us with tales of people falling out of windows drunk and sunning themselves in the back garden, but other anecdotes definitely echoed the darker side of the facility.
Back in the rehearsal room it was with a new perspective that I watched the action unfold, the visit was a sharp reminder for myself of the reality on which the plays events are based.
Anna Ryder, Asistant Director, Wet House