Blythe Stewart: “I’m drawn to the Old Red Lion”

Director Blythe Stewart on why Old Red Lion Theatre is the perfect venue for Catherine Lucie’s transfixing play, The Moor.

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“Over the last few weeks, the creative team for The Moor has mused on isolation, memories and how environments shape us. We are all transfixed by this play.

“The Moor is about a young woman named Bronagh who lives on the edge of everything. A new mother, recently bereaved and in a toxic relationship, Bronagh is doing the best she can. When a boy goes missing, Bronagh has to tell someone her suspicions. In doing so, she entangles herself and her boyfriend in a murder investigation.

“Bronagh is isolated in almost every aspect of her life. She lives on the moor, on the edge of a small town. Her relationship to that place is complicated but it’s all she has. When Bronagh stands up for herself and finds a voice, this, her radical act of defiance, spirals out of control.

“When I first read the play, back in 2014, its complexity, how it hooks and surprises, had me question what I believe and the everyday assumptions I make about the world around me. The play asks us to question ourselves seriously about what we see is reasonable in a world in crisis. And there might not be easy or clear answers.

“Catherine [Lucie] has written a bold and assured work that is imaginative and difficult. The design team – the brilliant minds of Holly Pigott, Jamie Platt and Anna Clock – and I have read and re-read the stage directions in awe of what the play requires of us. The world Bronagh lives in is in crisis and in flux. So the world of the play – the set, the light, the sound – all have to take this on board, fluidly and messily. For Bronagh, the moor is many places all at once. It’s a place for dreams, loss, refuge and also entrapment.

“The first theatre I shared The Moor with was the Old Red Lion Theatre. The theatre’s character is akin to The Moor and the place that Bronagh calls home. It feels intimate yet has depth, can feel both liberating and claustrophobic.

“As a team we’re drawn to the venue. I have worked there before, so know first-hand how well it champions developing artists and how driven the work is to be distinctive and truly bold, particularly in terms of design ambition. And the Old Red Lion Theatre is synonymous with their loving and loyal audience. It’s one of the only pub theatres I can think of that on a Saturday has a maze of footie fans and theatregoers.

“What makes it special is that people don’t just co-exist in the bar. Everyone gets involved, asks questions, enjoys a drink and a chat (dogs included). Here, you know, crazily enough, it feels like people can be fans of both things. The fact the Old Red Lion Theatre celebrates all this and more is why I see it as my local (a theatre can feel like a local?!), why I’m so pleased to be back and why the whole of The Moor team can’t wait to move into the theatre.

“Come for the theatre, the football, the dogs and the questions.”

The Moor runs at the Old Red Lion Theatre until from 6 February to 3 March.