Police chase after a night of recklessness - gritty drama in Arundel

Dawn Smithers - photo by Rosey Purchase
Dawn Smithers - photo by Rosey Purchase

On the muddy banks of the river Thames three boys hide from the police after a night of recklessness.

The play is Mudlarks by Vickie Donoghue, and it will be directed by Dawn Smithers as Arundel-based Drip Action theatre company’s contribution to the 2019 Arundel Festival.

Performances are from Saturday to Saturday, August 17-24 at 8pm in The Victoria Institute, 10 Tarrant Street, Arundel, with tickets available from The Book Ferret.

“The boys have done something bad, really bad,” Dawn says. “Not just naughty, but bad. And they are on the mudflats in the Thames estuary. They are on the run.

“They are only teenagers and I have got three excellent young men to play them. The play is the interaction between the three of them. I have got no props, hardly anything, just a backdrop. I am just relying on the three of them. There are some funny moments, but I would definitely not call it a comedy. It is a drama, and it is how you would imagine these three Essex boys relating to each other. And then at the end of Act One there is something quite shocking…

“They are three very well defined characters. One of the boys is a little simple; one of them is very cocky; and the other one is trying to better himself, trying to get out of where they are.”

Dawn believes there is something very real and believable about it all: “You can imagine these youngsters who have got no support, nowhere to go, nothing to do, who have had very little education. Two of them come on just laughing at what they have done, thinking it is brilliant, and the simple one says ‘You don’t think we have really hurt someone?’ You can really imagine these boys who have fallen through the net.”

Dawn admits it is a challenge to direct, but she is full of praise for her cast who are teenagers themselves – Oliver Beane, Harvey Lodge and Owen Clayton: “We are not talking experienced actors but we are talking young men who are dreadfully, dreadfully enthusiastic. They are teenagers and they are playing their own age, and they are good. The characters are so well done. It is beautifully and very cleverly written.

“The play was suggested to me by (Drip Action founder and artistic director) Bill (Brennan, and when I read it, I really wanted to do it. It is so immediate and so different. We are not talking Alan Ayckbourn or Agatha Christie, and they are brilliant too, but this is something different and challenging…”

Dawn has been with Drip Action for around 30 years: “I have worked a lot for them, acting for them and directing for them. What I like is that it is a company that takes risks with the plays. It doesn’t settle for anything safe. There is room for safe stuff and I haven’t got anything against it, but our audiences expect something a little unusual, things that you wouldn’t put on at the Priory (with the Arundel Players). It is a completely, completely different audience.”

Vickie Donoghue is a playwright and writer for TV and radio.

Mudlarks, her debut full-length play, was developed through High Tide’s Escalator Programme and produced by The Bush, following its premiere at the 2012 High Tide Festival. The play gained widespread critical acclaim. Vickie has also collaborated with Theatre Royal Portsmouth, the Mercury Theatre and the Royal Court.

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