Developing REaD

The REaD story began as simply an idea for a show about being a curly-haired redhead. Artistic Director of tidy carnage theatre collective Allie Butler had worked with flame-haired performer Helen Cuinn on a number of projects before REaD began but in 2014 they invited (distinctly ginger-tinged) wordsmith Kevin Gilday and further copper-topped actresses Linda McLaughlin, Trish Mullin, Sarah McCardie and Belle Jones to embark on the REaD journey with them.

During a week’s development, which culminated in a Scratch performance at the Arches, the pre-Raphelite women exchanged anecdotes and compared stories about their personal experiences as a redhead. These real-life tales ranged from the hilarious to the heartbreaking: victimisation and prejudice juxtaposed with comically bizarre reactions to red pubic hair. Kevin then used these accounts as stimulus for a series of poems which he created specifically for the project.

As the collective has a particular focus on devised dance and movement in their performances, Allie guided the REaD performers through a series of devising exercises, exploring various avenues of choreography possibilities and embracing the variety of shapes, sizes and movement skills within the group. By the end of this first development week an eclectic mix of tales, movement pieces, poetry and performance ideas had been created and the main challenge was to trim the material down to fit the 20 minute scratch slot.

The performance was a success, with overwhelmingly positive feedback and Allie set about plans to develop the piece into a full show.


Thanks to funding from Creative Scotland tidy carnage can now make this a reality. Having met earlier in the year to discuss the narrative potential for the show, the team spent another week working on the piece in March 2015, during which time a distinct storyline with carefully drawn characters was created. Kevin led on script development, working from improvisations between the performers, Sarah arranged parts for the musical numbers and Allie oversaw the cohesion of the different visual, musical, textual and physical elements of the piece.

Now ready to go into the second week of rehearsal before the premiere of the full piece at the Tron theatre in May as part of Mayfesto festival, the REaD team are really excited about how the project has developed.  A key feature of the process so far has been the freedom with which the team have felt able to express themselves in the safe and receptive environment that tidy carnage strive to  maintain in the rehearsal roomAlthough the coming week will no doubt resemble a more conventional rehearsal process now that the script has been developed and much of the devising has already been done, it will also inevitably be peppered with that vital element which has enriched the project from the start – laughter.

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