Very many re­turns as Alan comes back home

A Leeds the­atre di­rec­tor has been try­ing to get his work in the city for years – now it’s ev­ery­where. Nick Ahad spoke to Alan Lane.

Yorkshire Post - Culture & The Guide - - STAGE -

IT took a lit­tle time for Leeds to wake up to him, but sud­denly he’s ev­ery­where.

Not that Alan Lane’s come out of nowhere.

Lane’s ti­tle is the­atre di­rec­tor, although the­atre mav­er­ick seems more ap­pro­pri­ate. In 2005 he was the res­i­dent as­sis­tant di­rec­tor at the West York­shire Play­house, but since then he has worked in an ex­cit­ing, bold and en­tirely new way, with his com­pany Slung Low, cre­at­ing the­atre “ex­pe­ri­ences”.

If noth­ing turns you off faster than hear­ing those words, then you haven’t seen a Slung Low show yet.

“Site-spe­cific”, “im­mer­sive”, they are all buzz words in con­tem­po­rary the­atre, but Lane is aware that to nonthe­atre types they can be some­what off-putting. It would be bet­ter to per­haps ex­plain a cou­ple of Slung Low shows.

They Only Come At Night was a show that took place in a car park and then, in a se­quel, in Hud­der­s­field, dur­ing which the au­di­ence walked around and were met by ac­tors play­ing vam­pire hunters and vam­pires.

In Map­ping the City, a stun­ning show, three con­nected sto­ries took place around the streets of Hull with the au­di­ence fol­low­ing ac­tors and lis­ten­ing in on their con­ver­sa­tions via head­phones and ra­dio mi­cro­phones.

In their most re­cent work, Orig­i­nal Bear­ings, au­di­ences were taken to Hol­beck on a bus with a story wo­ven around the area of in­ner city Leeds.

All these shows were ar­rest­ing, beau­ti­ful and bril­liant, but Orig­i­nal Bear­ings rep­re­sented a tri­umph for Lane, the artis­tic di­rec­tor of Slung Low, be­cause it was in Leeds. “I’m from Leeds, but for years I have been mak­ing work any­where but here,” says Lane, whose com­pany is now based in dis­used rail­way arches south of Leeds city cen­tre.

“We made work in Lon­don, in Manch­ester, next year we’re cre­at­ing a third They Only Come at Night show in Sin­ga­pore, but I couldn’t get ar­rested in Leeds. I’ve been bang­ing on the door for ages.” The door has fi­nally opened. On Novem­ber 17 Lane will present a new piece of work in his home city. What is par­tic­u­larly grat­i­fy­ing is that the piece has been com­mis­sioned by Opera North.

“We’ve been talk­ing for ages about the fact that the big boys in Leeds, like the Play­house, like Opera North, should be open­ing up their doors to the smaller scale artists work­ing in the city.

“It feels like there is some­thing of a change go­ing on – Opera North wanted to do this piece and they wanted to find some­one who could work in a cer­tain way and they came to me. It’s great for me per­son­ally, ob­vi­ously, but I think it marks a real shift in at­ti­tude to­wards the way we can all work to­gether,” he says.

The piece Opera North have asked Lane to work on is part of the in­creas­ingly in­ven­tive pro­gramme at the Howard Assem­bly Room. The Gam­bler, based on Dos­to­evsky’s novel, is a pro­duc­tion which will see the HAR kit­ted out like a casino with three ac­tors play­ing the parts around the au­di­ence.

“Opera North were look­ing for some­one who can work in that kind of way and they came to me. I hope I’m go­ing to bring the same feel­ing of Slung Low’s shows to the pro­duc­tion,” says Lane.

While Lane is cre­at­ing the piece for Opera North as a free­lance di­rec­tor, he is work­ing with his com­pany on an­other new piece which will fea­ture the work of six Leeds play­wrights be­ing per­formed as a ra­dio play in front of a live au­di­ence.

15 Min­utes Live will fea­ture the work of Alice Nut­ter, Aisha Khan, Ben Ta­goe, Boff Whal­ley, Emma Adams and Rommi Smith and will be recorded then be played in homes for the el­derly in Arm­ley. The pro­duc­tion is part of the I Love West Leeds Fes­ti­val and is on Novem­ber 13.

TRANS­FORMED: Howard As­sem­bly Room in Leeds as a casino, ready for the pro­duc­tion of The Gam­bler.

IMMERSIVE THE­ATRE: Slung Low’s Map­ping the City – three in­ter­con­nected sto­ries which took place on the streets of Hull.

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