Rubbish - An Interview with Director Martin Walker

The Highbury Studio Academy is the brain-child of Rob Phillips, chairman of the Highbury Players, which aims to encourage people that are new to theatre life to explore new opportunities on a smaller-scale than our usual productions, as well as giving new writers the chance of developing original material for the enjoyment of the studio audiences. After six months of meetings and rehearsals, the Academy has produced it's first play: 'Rubbish', written and directed by Martin Walker.

With the BFAME (Birmingham Festival of Acting and Musical Entertainment) Awards coming up this weekend, and with potential further performances in mind, we thought we'd catch up with Martin and find out a bit more about the play...

Q: How did the idea for Rubbish come about?

'Rubbish' is a one act play. It is an entirely new piece of work based on an idea I had been thinking about for a while. After mentioning it to Rob in the pub one night, we decided to use it as a project for the Highbury Studio Academy which meets on a Sunday evening in The Studio at Highbury Theatre.

Taking our inspiration from Mike Leigh  - director of  Happy Go Lucky (2008), Secrets and Lies (1996), and Mr Turner (2014) -  the story and characters were then developed through a series of improvised workshops, from which the final script was developed. This approach allowed the plot to move in new directions and build on the interactions between the characters. The play is really a joint effort, and very much a work created by the whole cast.

Aimee Attard as Miriam and Rob Phillips as Bill in rehearsal for 'Rubbish'

Q: What is the play about?

The main character, Bill, is a collector of things which remind him of better times, but his hobby has got slightly out of hand; he is a hoarder. While to Bill his things are treasures, to his neighbours his stuff is just 'rubbish'. This has driven them to complain to the council who wish to take steps to get Bill to clean up his council house, or face possible eviction. Bill however is intransient and will have nothing to do with it.

The play takes us on a reflective journey through Bill's life and the events that have led up to this point. In many respects the play is the everyday life of an ordinary man, but at it's heart is a love story. We hope that by degrees it is funny, moving and tragic, and provides one perspective into the condition known as 'Hoarding Disorder.'

Rob Phillips as Bill and Nick Whitehouse as Mr Clissold in rehearsal for 'Rubbish'

Q: Who is in the play?

Bill Bayswater is played by Rob Phillips, and his wife Miriam Bayswater is played by Aimee Attard. Chrissie, a social worker, is played by Pip Olliver, and finally Mr Clissold, a council official, is played by Nick Whitehouse.

Q: Is the play complicated to stage?

The play has been written to ensure ease of setting up and striking the set. As ever though, it can't be done without the help of the wider community of the theatre who have helped with the set, sound, lighting, wardrobe and of course props - which in this case involves an unusual amount of rubbish!

Rob Phillips as Bill and Pip Olliver as Chrissie in rehearsal for 'Rubbish'

Q: When can we see 'Rubbish'?

The play is being entered into the BFAME one act festival, with the first round this year being held at Highbury from 2 - 3 March. We will be performing on the Saturday evening. BFAME is a festival of established and one act plays performed by amateur groups from across the region. If we were to progress to the later stages of the festival, there may be more performances at other theatres.

We will also be performing the play for the Little Theatre Guild Annual AGM which is being help at Highbury Theatre this year, so there will be a performance in The Studio on Friday 29 March at 8pm.

There will also be an open rehearsal on Wednesday evening (27 February) which everyone is welcome to attend. It is free. The play will start at 8pm and will last for about 40 minutes.

'Rubbish' is also supporting Clouds End, a charity in Birmingham that helps people with Hoarding Disorders. If anyone is moved by the issues raised within the play and would like to make a charitable donation to support their work, that's where any proceeds will go. Myself and the cast will be around afterwards to answer any questions.

Q: Do you have any ideas for further plays?

It would be nice to have another short play that might work with 'Rubbish' to make an evening, and I have started to think about a sequel, although it is early days. We may need a few more pints in the pub first!

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