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Dare Devil Rides To Jarama

one of the top London Shows in 2016 from London theatre1 
                                       click link below and scroll down:    
       TOUR DATES - This show has toured extensively throughout Autumn 2016 - Spring 2017 


MAY Tuesday 2 -  Friday 5  TARA THEATRE, Earlsfield, London 



How do you define the work you do?Our work is about telling important stories of the past; the stories of extraordinary ordinary people, of their struggles and contributions to encourage social change. They are always stories that resonate with modern audiences, and we always aim to focus and highlight modern relevance; our work is innately political. It has been described as ‘folk theatre’ - a style of theatre, like folk music, that concerns the masses, and is inherently political. It’s a style and tradition that we are trying to keep alive through live music, puppetry, song, projection, in-depth characterisation, a tightly choreographed small cast, etc.; entertaining theatre offering a ‘good night out’, but with a powerful story and message.

Why do this topic now?The production’s touring schedule will cover the 80th anniversaries of the creation of the International Brigades in October 1936 and the Battle of Jarama itself. That its an anniversary is a reason for focussing a project on the Spanish Civil War. It is, however, a subject that remains relevant at all times, as it has so much to say about how vital democracy is, and how important it is to have the freedom to enable democracy. It offers many valuable political lessons for us now and opportunities for debate and discussion. It also has much to say about collectivism and unity, themes that are a constant in our previous productions – ‘Ragged Trousered Philanthropists’, ‘We Will Be Free!’ and ‘United We Stand.’

Why is the Spanish Civil War still relevant today, and why is it important to remember the International Brigade volunteers today?The Spanish Civil War is regarded by historians as a prelude to the Second World War, the most important conflict of the 20th century. An understanding of the circumstances around which the war began are critical in any analysis of potential points of conflict now. It is a major example of unity on an international scale, that serves as an example to generations to come.

 The volunteers who went from the British Isles and other countries set an unprecedented example of international solidarity, as they fought against fascism and on the side of a democratically elected government that stood for social justice in areas such as health and education, for new rights for women, for free trade unions and for respect towards differing national identities. These are values that endure today.

 The volunteers who went to Spain were an exceptional group of individuals. Several of them afterwards became great soldiers, leading trade union and political figures and well-known writers and poets.

The courage and self-sacrifice of the International Brigades in Spain continue to be an inspiration to people around the world.

 How do you tell this important story?How to tell the story is one of the biggest challenges of such a large subject, that has such a major impact on world history. Firstly, our choice to make the story a personal one is key. A theme of our work is that we tell the stories of ordinary people, and through their tale we shed light on much larger issues. Clem Beckett was quite extraordinary though, because of his courage and tenacity, and that in a short life he managed to fit so much in. He was also around major events in the 1930s, and this makes his story and ideal vehicle to tell of the events of this extraordinary decade.

 We will tell the story employing as many theatrical tricks as possible to make it as truthful and entertaining as possible. We always use songs and poetry as they provide accessible and entertaining vehicles to push a story along, and create an emotional background to events. We often use projection, as that can offer a chronological background to what is happening, and we have used puppetry often as light relief to the more serious acted scenes.

 How do you hope the audience will respond to the play?Audiences respond brilliantly to our style and content. Its a style that is in danger of becoming extinct. Our experience is that people like it and miss it, often referring to it as ‘Proper Theatre.’

 There’s plenty of variety in this subject. The 1930s was a very exciting decade at home and abroad, with the volatility of world economics, the Crash, the Depression, and the rise of powerful political movements; increasing levels of poverty and unemployment; and emerging new technologies and the developments in sports and leisure. With the play we aim to focus on many of these elements and reflect the times through telling the story of Clem Beckett, who was witness to so many major events of the 30s.

 Why should Trade Union members watch it? Many of the volunteers were strong union activists, and the fight for democracy in Spain was an extension of he battles for better conditions at home and at work in their homelands.

 The outbreak of the Spanish Civil War posed a problem for leaders of British trade unions, and whilst being aware of the threat of fascism, they were also fearful of a fresh European conflict just twenty years after the 1st World War, and feared a rise of communism within their ranks.

 However, the Spanish Civil War became a focus for an international struggle for the labour movement as a whole and so many working-class people and trade unionists volunteered because they understood the vital importance of defending those democratically won workers’ and trade union rights. This is why it has since become a major part of labour and trade union history, and why those volunteers should be celebrated by trade union members, and why the play will be of major importance for trade union members.

 What are the special challenges to making this production? The biggest challenge is to do justice to those that volunteered to fight Fascism and support the fight of the Spanish people to defend democracy. Also, because there so many facets to the story, a major challenge will be tell the story clearly and make sure all the vital elements are included and given necessary weight.

 There is always a duty to be absolutely respectful when presenting ‘real’ lives in a play; respectful of their achievements and life choices, and fully research and understand them and present their life stories as accurately and compassionately as possible.

 There is the added challenge that Clem Beckett was a superstar motorcyclist, so somehow we will have to find a way to present that effectively on stage! - both speedway and the wall of death, as he was an expert in both!

What is the next project for Townsend Productions? Townsend Productions have just started a ‘Songs of Struggle and Social Change’ project 
launching a duet under the name, the Clarion 2. The set of songs includes songs from Townsend Productions’ previous productions that tell the story of the Chartists and the Tolpuddle Martyrs, as well as songs that reflect social and industrial struggles and the history of trade unionism.
There are several ideas for forthcoming projects, all based around the stories of ordinary people who have achieved extraordinary things in the most challenging circumstances. Watch this space!