An eye on Simeon’s Watch

Paul Birch takes a look at our new national tour – Simeon’s Watch…

Simeon (John Holden-White) and Rina (Katie Brier) sharing a cup of cocoa out in the fields
“Change can bring real challenges to families, particularly the changes that threaten to alter our relationships with the people we love most. Simeon’s Watch focuses on three generations of one family and the impact on all of them as they face the demands of growing old.”

So writes Bridget Foreman about her new play for Riding Lights. This is a production which picks up echoes of the biblical story of Simeon, the man who watches and waits at the end of his life, not forgotten by God, until he glimpses the hope God has prepared for us all.

The script for Simeon’s Watch comes from a series of workshops with those living with dementia, their families (including young people) and professional care staff and clinicians. Over a number of weeks we met at Friargate Theatre and in residential care homes, exploring ways that drama might help these families communicate better, as they continue to care for one another. Using improvisation, play and applied theatre techniques, we discovered the range of emotions created by the demands of ageing, including, sometimes, a Simeon-like joy and peace in the middle of it all.

In several dramas addressing this subject, the story is often constructed around the theme of loss – whether it’s memory, dignity, relationship or hope. Our aim was to bring out some of the other ‘notes’ from the stories we found in these workshops – notes of love, comedy, play and intimacy.

Simeon’s Watch explores ways in which responding to change more playfully can often transform our relationships. Children and young people, of course, do this best. Care homes that have nurseries or schools attached to them demonstrate the positive impact shared by the different generations while they interact. Responding ‘playfully’ to painful interactions will never reverse time or heal damaged minds but it can radically improve the quality of relationship and communication. This production is a celebration of that.

If Simeon’s Watch is to be a distinctive ‘voice’, Riding Lights wants that to be one that refuses to let a sense of fear put further stress on loving relationships that have been nurtured over many years. However old or young we may be, we hope this play will change minds about the problem of changing minds!

You can find out more about the show, as well as a list of tour dates, at

Inheritance: review and rehearsal photos

If you’ve picked up a copy of Friday’s Church Times you might have spotted their excellent review of InheritanceIf you have an online subscription you can read the full piece here, or we’ve picked out a couple of choice quotes below:

“It is the Passion story in close-up: intense, intimate”

“The play works as an icon, in not seeking accurate representation but inviting an individual response to the actions of God. It works beautifully, and has a humanity about it that shines”

“All four actors give outstanding performances”

“…a piece of perfection”

No complaints from us with this one then. The same can be said for our Twitter feed, which has been full of “don’t miss it” and “catch it if you can” tweets, as well as a lovely comment from an audience member at St David’s Cathedral  “It was perfectly put together. Theatre as it should be.”

All together some very encouraging responses to the production.

Rehearsal Photos

If you’ve not managed to catch the show yet, there’s still time as it’s touring until Easter Saturday (see a list of the remaining performance dates). Here’s a few dress rehearsal photos to whet your appetite.

A very different beast…

It’s Day 1 of our Brand new Christmas Show. Multiple award winning writer and Riding Lights’ legend Nigel Forde has re-told that much neglected part of the Christmas story (the journey of Mary and Joseph to Bethelehem) in true comic form.

We welcomed returning actor Peter Shaw (Downside Up, Take The World, Give it Back, Mak!) who is playing Joseph as well as two actors new to the company. Pippa Gibb is tackling Mary and the rather subversive angel is played by Rob Holman. We are very pleased that both will also be joining Roughshod 2013 so if you want to get a sneak peek at the performance power of these two new shoddies then make sure you get to see Only 80 Miles to Christmas! this year.

There is, of course, another key character in this revolutionary road trip – namely the beast of burden that carried the Holy Family on their way. Despite the ubiquitous donkey beloved of countless Christmas cards the gospels do not tell us how they all made their way to Bethlehem. In our retelling, Joseph with his unusual carpentry skills has created a very different beast. A crazed S.A.L.O.O.N.C.A.R (Specially assembled lot of ordinary nails cardboard and rubbish). To call it a ‘car’ would be close to the mark although this thing has a mind of its own. Scattered throughout this blog post are a few photos of the cast and creative team taking a first look at the frame of this contraption.

So today, York Mystery Plays acclaimed design team Sean Cavanagh and Anna Gooch were busy with prop maker Chris Tandy creating the shell of the car for rehearsals whilst directors Paul Burbridge and Paul Birch think up comedic madness for the journey that was to end up changing the world.

So, we hope you’ll watch the blog and we’ll keep you posted on the show as it makes its own road trip through rehearsal, and if you’ve like to find a Christmas show performance near you, the a full listings are here.