Interview with Redcoats director Jonny Kelly

Redcoats is an exciting new play by Nick Ahad exploring the history of Butlins. I chat to director Jonny Kelly about his involvement in the show…

What is the biggest challenge when touring to such varied venues?
Mikron will be touring to 130 venues in 2019, which is a huge challenge in itself. The biggest challenge from my point of view is making sure the vision of the playwright, designer and cast can all suit every venue and every audience member.

What kind of venues do you most like touring to?
I think there is no better venue for Mikron than a canalside beer garden or performing at the side of a lock, it’s Mikron’s natural environment.

What should audiences expect from the play?
A whistle stop journey through the British holiday revolution with some brilliant music by our MD Rebekah Hughes and an insight into the life of being a redcoat at Butlins through their 80 year history. Bonny babies, knobbly knees and a smattering of seaside fun!

Do the cast members play several different parts and, if so, do you find that a challenge to direct?
They all play multiple parts, it’s sort of the Mikron trademark, and necessity as there are only four actors on the tour. Once the play is clearly mapped out, the scripts lend themselves to gaps for costume changes and time to regroup. The biggest challenge is the design of the show, to make these changes as swift as possible.

Is it your first time working with Nick Ahad? Has the process been quite collaborative?
It’s my first time working with Nick. It’s a very specific ask and Nick has never written for Mikron before. Marianne (Mirkon’s Artistic Director) leads the script development process which is over a year long. There are multiple check in points and we get to workshop the play with cast in the middle of the writing process. I get to feedback at each stage – so yes, it’s not a script I get given one day, that’s for sure!

What has been your favourite show to direct and, if you could choose any play to direct what would it be and why?
It’s hard to pick my favourite show out of the ones I’ve directed. Each piece has a completely different identity and each production has a different journey with a different cast. It’s like asking to choose your favourite song! They have all been fantastic for different reasons.

I work almost exclusively in new writing. I love the collaborative relationship of working with a writer and transferring their vision to the stage. I think working on new writing gives you a greater freedom to explore current topics and issues. So if I could choose any play to direct it would be the next classic – just need to find it!

If you want to catch Redcoats on tour, visit the Mikron Theatre website.

Photograph credited to Peter Boyd

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