A little over a year ago, I received a very thrilling reply from Red Ladder Theatre Company saying they would be happy to welcome me into their team to do an Erasmus+ internship, as I had requested. They told me about the exciting projects they had planned ahead and roughly what my responsibilities would be. I didn't need convincing - it sounded like an amazing opportunity. And it was! So I ended up in Leeds, England, where they are based, in the middle of April.
Cultural shock aside, everything went smoothly. Before my arrival, they found me a lovely place to stay with a very nice couple and when I finally arrived, Chris Lloyd, the producer, picked me up from the coach station that is right next to their office.
A couple of weeks later, the rehearsals of the first production I helped with started. It was a smaller scale touring version of their previous production The Damned United - a play about the forty four controversial days Brian Clough was the manager of Leeds United, a football club he openly despised for years prior to taking the job.
Red Ladder took this play to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. This meant I was able to experience the festival for four days and see sixteen amazing shows with my company pass.
Right after I returned to Leeds, the preparations for the main project of my internship began. It was a site-specific production set in a warehouse in the outskirts of Leeds city centre. The play, titled The Shed Crew, was based on the book Urban Grimshaw and the Shed Crew, by Bernard Hare. This immersive piece invited the audience to get to know the real lives of a group of young teenagers that grew up in Leeds in poverty and extreme circumstances, falling through society's safety net.
Together with the team of designers Ali Allen and Charlie Stanley, I helped build this world.
During the month of August, we cleared the space in the warehouse so the scaffolding structure for the set could be built, made it all safe to inhabit, and prepared the adjacent rooms to set up a bar, commodities and exhibition spaces. It was rough but gratifying work. In the beginning of September, the rehearsals started and the amazing space became alive! Action spread across the entire set and soon the immense space didn't seem so big any more.
Just a couple of weeks later I found myself using the smoke machine, moving costumes around the very few hidden parts of the structure and setting props during the first public performance. It was all such an exciting and fulfilling experience! Everyone involved was lovely to know and a joy to work with. There was an incredibly positive, open and understanding atmosphere among us while working on such a delicate story. I think it all transpired to the audience. In the end, we said goodbye with some small gestures of kindness, postcards and a big dinner.
From the very beginning I had an excellent experience with Red Ladder. I still can't believe how lucky I was in finding this lively and exciting company with such a rich history too! Next year they celebrate their 50th anniversary and by the way they are going, there will be fifty more to come! It was so hard saying goodbye to these amazing people. I came back home with precious memories, valuable new insight and knowledge about the Theatre world and lots of fantastic presents I struggled to fit in my bags!
A big thank you to everyone I met during my time in Leeds for making me feel so welcome! A special and massive thanks to Rod Dixon, Chris Lloyd, Jenny Sullivan, Sasha Hawkes, Chris O'Connor and Amanda Tricket, the Red Ladder team.
Inês Mota is a Portuguese scenic artist who recently returned home from a six months internship with Red Ladder Theatre Company, in Leeds. This is her online portfolio showcasing her work and what she has been up to.