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“I feel younger and more fired up than I did when I was 15” - an interview with Ricky Beadle-Blair.
Image Credit: Sharron Wallace

“I feel younger and more fired up than I did when I was 15” - an interview with Ricky Beadle-Blair.

7 July 2017 Tom Butler

Ricky Beadle-Blair is an award-winning filmmaker and LGBTQ activist, whose latest play Summer in London opens on July 9 at Theatre Royal Stratford East. A ridiculously prolific creative force, Beadle-Blair is a multi-talented writer, musician and director who was awarded an MBE in 2016 for services to Drama. London Calling spoke to him about Summer in London and how he manages to balance his daunting workload.

London Calling: For the uninitiated, could you tell us what Summer in London is about?

Rikki Beadle-Blair: It's an epic comedy romance about four broke homeless lads all competing to win the heart of a beautiful girl in a series of dates in the midst of a London heatwave. 

LC: On the TRSE website it says ‘think The Inbetweeners mixed with a modern A Midsummer Night’s Dream’. That’s one hell of a combination! Do you think it’s accurate?

RBB: Haha! Great description!  It’s also an invitation to the most romantic party ever.

LC: When you first wrote the play did you have it in mind to produce it with an all trans cast?

RBB: A year ago I fell in love with the idea of creating a play with an all trans cast. I was excited by the idea of creating a world in which a perceived minority was the majority. No coming out, no confessions, no “I’ve got something to tell you…” Kerry Michael, the brave bold artistic director of one of the world’s bravest boldest most welcoming theatres, Theatre Royal Stratford East, was, as always, an enthusiastic collaborator. And so we began.

Image Credit: Sharron Wallace

LC: Do you prefer to direct your own scripts?

RBB: Yes, I do! I’ve been directing since I was a kid, it’s second nature. I am also fortunate enough to get to direct other people’s plays too. But I only let creatives I know really well direct the first productions of my plays.  Only close friends and family get to babysit my kids!

LC: Your Wikipedia page describes you as an actor, director, screenwriter, playwright, singer, designer, choreographer, dancer and songwriter. That’s a lot of things! How do you decide what you’re going to focus on next?

RBB: Well, often I get to do them at the same time - I’m creating all the music for Summer in London for instance – and shooting the video content.  But what task I allot to myself to tackle always depends on the project. I put the team/family together and if my skills don’t fit the vision of the piece I don’t give myself the job.

LC: Do you get bored with one art form after a while? Or get anxious to work on something completely different?

RBB: Never. I am more and more in love with the work every day. That’s why I often stack projects, working on a film and a play, or several films and plays at the same time with projects overlapping, and creating the soundtracks… I never never NEVER get bored.  Every day brings so many fresh challenges. I feel younger and more fired up than I did when I was 15.

Image Credit: Sharron Wallace

LC: There are monthly/daily chats about the lack of diversity in the arts, yet nothing seems to change. Is there something fundamental we should be doing differently? Because currently it’s clearly not working.

RBB: Diversity comes so naturally, I don’t really know how people manage to resist it. Diet, exercise, education, pollination - it’s literally how everything works. The secret for survival is in developing the skill of making the most of all that’s available. That’s all diversity is. Tunnel vision is useful sometimes, but widescreen vision is crucial to progress.

LC: You were awarded an MBE for services to drama last year. How was meeting The Queen? Did she have anything profound to say?

RBB: I didn’t meet the Queen, it was Prince Charles. And he was charming and brilliant at making people feel special; as if he works for them, which he does. He was a study in grace, and I learned a surprising amount in that fleeting encounter.

Image Credit: Sharron Wallace

LC: As a born and bred Londoner, when you have a day off in the capital what would you get up to?

RBB: I work. I’m a full-time creative.

LC: Anything on the cultural horizon you’re looking forward to seeing?

RBB: Haha! Summer in London at Stratford East and #Hashtag Lightie at the Bush Theatre (written by the brilliant young playwright Lynette Linton and directed by up and coming director/designer Rikki Beadle-Blair).

LC: Finally, what’s next after this for you?

RBB: Hmm… Before we get to #Hashtag Lightie in November, I’m doing two weeks of workshops in September with 30 young actors to develop Timeless, a theatre project about LGBT history from the very earliest recorded history to the present day. Plus I’m hosting at the Black Pride (which is a beautifully diverse event by the way) on July 9!

Summer In London is on at Theatre Royal Stratford East from July 8 - 29. Tickets from £10.

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