Live Theatre and the RSC are coming together for their first full collaboration next week. Sam Wonfor interrupts rehearsals for a chat with actor David Rintoul.
This time last year, David Rintoul was limbering up for his role as Edward III as part of the RSC's annual visit to Newcastle.
It marked a welcome return for the Aberdeen-born actor who had spent a year on Tyneside following his graduation from Rada in the early 1970s.
Now he is returning once more to the region - and once again for the RSC residency - although he won't be speaking any words penned by Shakespeare this time around.
David, who is currently gracing the nation's screens as Andrew Sweet in the ITV1 drama Sweet Medicine, is playing the part of a fascist leader in the debut collaboration between the RSC and Newcastle's Live Theatre, Keepers of the Flame.
It is a blank verse play which has been written by the North-East's Sean O'Brien and which will open at Live next week... in association with the RSC.
David and the rest of the cast, which includes fellow RSC stalwart Alan Howard and their Live Theatre counterparts, Trevor Fox, Joe Caffrey and Deka Walmsley, have already spent three weeks together in London and are coming to the end of their 14-day rehearsals in Newcastle. And, according to David, it has been hard but thoroughly enjoyable work so far.
"It hasn't been an easy play to rehearse - primarily because it is a fresh piece which we had to learn from scratch and it has been non-stop rehearsing," he says.
"But I really like working on new plays because you never quite know what you've got in your hands until you get in front of an audience. There's a real excitement in the air.
"Keepers of the Flame represents a unique partnership between the RSC and a regional new writing theatre and is a landmark in the on-going relationship between Live and the RSC to develop new plays and new writers.
And as far as David is concerned, this will be a glowing advert.
"Sean is a very fine poet and this is a wonderful piece of writing," he says.
"It is very dense and deals with very large themes but also manages to be wholly accessible. Sean has written it in verse - much like Shakespeare's 10-beat rhythm, but in modern English. It works very well.
"The play tells the story of a fictional poet, Richard Jameson, who becomes involved with the far right in British politics in the lead-up to the Second World War.
It opens in the 1980s, as the now elderly Richard, who is living on the Northumbrian coast, recounts his secret history to an academic interested in his work and proceeds to move back and forth in time, via flashbacks, to reveal the murkier sides of the party's activities.
David plays Henry Exton, the leader of the Fascist Party.
He says: "My character is fictional, but is very close to Oswald Mosley (leader of the British Union of Fascists) in a lot of ways. Henry Exton wants to lead the Fascist party. That is his passion.
"He is an interesting character to play and it is fantastic to be working with Alan (Howard) who I admired when I was training to be an actor and he was on stage with the RSC.
"It has been a relatively short rehearsal period, but it's been great getting to know all the actors - many of whom are regulars here at Live. We've all had to work hard but it seems to be paying off. Hopefully this will appeal to both fans of the RSC and Live. That's what we're trying to achieve."
David says he has been impressed by the Quayside developments we can see from our position in Live's café as well as the work which goes on inside the theatre.
"This is the first time I've been to Live Theatre and I have been impressed both by the work which goes on here and by the general atmosphere which is incredibly warm and creative.
"I have a background in new writing. I used to be involved in a new writing group called Joint Stock and it's wonderful to see so much talent being fostered here.
"It's a real pleasure to be working here and I'm very excited to see how the audiences react."
Newcastle Journal, 29.10.03.
Keepers of the Flame opens at Live Theatre on November 4 and will run until November 30. For tickets, call the box office on (0191) 232-1232.