Five Minutes with Cassie Friend of RedCape Theatre
In February and March 2024, RedCape’s new play On Track will tour to venues across the house network. Drawing on true stories and using the company’s trademark blend of comedy and visual, physical theatre, On Track follows Kit's journey of discovery through the history of women's cycling.
Cassie Friend, co-Artistic Director of RedCape Theatre, kindly spared five minutes of her time to tell us the story so far.
Tell us about the company.
RedCape is myself and Rebecca Loukes, as co-artistic directors. We are lucky to be company-in-residence at South Street Arts Centre in Reading and have been since we started in 2006.
Originally, there was a third member, Claire Coaché, and we all met at Lancaster University whilst doing Theatre Studies. Once we left we all went off to train further. I went to Lecoq in Paris and then on to work with other theatre companies including Pig Iron Theatre. Rebecca trained in movement – with Phillip Zarrilli in martial / meditation arts for performers and in the body awareness work of Elsa Gindler.
We had wanted to make something together for a long time but we were never all in the same place at the same time. But in 2006 Claire brought a story to us and we knew we wanted to tell it. Her father had worked mending hairdryers in an asylum in the Midlands, and there was an old woman who’d been a patient there for many years, since she was young. This started to open up a story for us about women earlier in the century who had been locked up for being deemed ‘morally defective’. The asylums were normally out of town, kept outside of society: self-contained places with hairdressers, train stations, farms – all sorts. In the 1980s these asylums started to be sold off because the estates were obviously very valuable. A lot of the patients were released into the community, not having lived that way since before they were locked up some decades before. This provided inspiration for our first show, The Idiot Colony, which was titled using the nickname of an asylum in the Midlands. We made that show at South Street and with the support of what was then known as The Berkshire Venues consortium, with ‘tuppence ha’penny’ and a couple of towels – and it went surprisingly well! It was the birth of the company. We toured the show for a long time and still get asked about it now. I’m very proud of it.
What does being a company-in-residence mean for you?
It’s brilliant. We have a home, which is so important. We rehearse and open our shows there. We have use of some storage space. And crucially we have the support of the brilliant John Luther who runs the venue and has been alongside all of RedCape’s life so far. The show that we’re touring with house, On Track, is our first collaboration with South Street. It was made with Reading Arts and South Street during the Covid-19 pandemic. And this year we are delighted to also be Associate Artists at Proteus.
Women feature heavily in your work. Is that intentional?
Yes, for a start women run the company and women’s stories tend to be the ones we want to tell; the stories of ordinary people put in extraordinary situations. Finding those untold stories is our ‘through line’. A new show we’re working on, The Luminous, touches on people who were children at the time of the Greenham Common protests and lived there with their mothers. We've been talking to them, and to people who protested there. There’s a generation now who haven’t heard of Greenham Common, but we are living in a time that’s all about protest, so the piece feels resonant. There were women who lived there for 19 years and now, thanks to them, the Common has been given back to the people. Our research for the show has taken in the Victorian ‘Match Girls’ strikes which became the basis of the first Trade Union and the Reclaim the Nights protests.
In the spring, you’ll share On Track with audiences across the south east. What does that mean for the evolution of the piece, and for you as a company?
We are thrilled to be sharing On Track with South-East audiences this Spring. RedCape is part of the South-East community so it's great to be focusing on venues close to home. But also many of them are new to us, so it's exciting to be able to take the work to people who might be new to RedCape. Also the timing is perfect as the tour will be crossing International Womens' Day, which is a celebration close to our hearts. And finally, we are really pleased that every show will be BSL-interpreted.