No Direction Edinburgh preview at the Maltings Arts Theatre, St Albans

PUBLISHED: 15:32 05 July 2013

Albert Welling and Ronnie Toms - No Direction

Albert Welling and Ronnie Toms - No Direction

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PLEASE ENSURE CAROLINE IS BYLINED

A POWERFUL fast-moving emotive comedy previews in St Albans this weekend, ahead of the Edinburgh Festival.

With a cast of two, No Direction appears at the Maltings Arts Theatre on Saturday.

It playfully explores the contract between actor and audience, through a journey of friendship, loyalty and betrayal.

When nobody is in charge, there’s a fair chance it could end in tears and comic chaos – they might get horribly lost unless they sort themselves out.

It stars actor Ronnie Toms, who is from St Albans but now lives in Bedford. Though his acting career spans an impressive list of roles, including Bottom in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, it is his first time on stage in the city since school.

He also co-founded The Market Theatre in Hitchin, played Eddie in EastEnders, Joe in London’s Burning, and appeared in Bollywood epic, The Rising, where he met Albert Welling almost a decade ago.

Albert, who featured in Doctor Who and Ricky Gervais’ film, Cemetery Junction, plays the other character in No Direction and he wrote it. His credits include writing five plays for BBC 4 but this is his first for the stage.

He said: “What’s it about? It’s about an hour! We threw ourselves into it with what I can only describe as juvenile enthusiasm wrapped in experience. We laugh like men demented in the pub afterwards.

“If you’ve never had a friend or never faced a tricky moment in your life then maybe this isn’t for you. It will make you laugh, think and almost cry. It will put a spring in your step and get you talking afterwards.”

It is directed by Bob Golding, who performed as Eric in Olivier-Award-winning one-man show Morecambe. St Albans-based Bob is especially familiar with what it takes to make a show work when there are a limited amount of characters.

He said: “I’d say that the dynamic of theatre is fifty per cent in the writing and fifty per cent, performance. I had a fairly easy job. Albert’s writing is naturally dynamic and the content tackles quite a lot of extreme emotions, which really does help to flower the piece, with highs and lows, perfectly for two actors.”

Morecambe won Fringe First – an accolade given at Edinburgh Festival to the most promising plays among the 3,000 showcased there throughout August.

Bob said: “I look at awards as a bonus really. They’re not needed but they do seem to gain attention. It’s always good to get confirmation that you can get some things right. I’m very proud of Albert and Ron. They are both accomplished actors and totally commit to ‘the truth’. It’s explosive, challenging and funny!”

Ronnie and Bob studied drama together 27 years ago and acknowledge that mentor John Gardiner still influences them. “He was a gifted inspirational man, writer and director. Unfortunately, we lost him to cancer but his infectious energy is definitely in our work today. I always tend to ask myself ‘What would John do?’” said Bob.

Albert has never been to Edinburgh Fringe Festival and describes it as “right up near the top of his list of things to do before you die”. Bob said: “It’s really buzzing with culture and so many creative people converging in such a magical beautiful city is always an exciting time. I love it.”

Albert hopes that being non-specific in place/time helps make it universally appealing and cross-cultural and would like to tour “to the whole of the English-speaking world”.

So does it feel confusing to be directing No Direction? “This actually is one of the issues within it, so to answer that could possibly spoil the outcome”, said Bob. And Albert joked that the title had nothing to do with the boy band of a similar name: “I can honestly say One Direction was not in the frame when I came up with it. Though maybe Bob, Ronnie and I could do a play about a boy band reunion with two sticks and a Zimmer frame!”

Tickets for the Maltings preview, which starts at 8pm, are available from the box office on 0844 8700 887, priced £10 and £7.50 (concessions). There is a recommended minimum age of 14 years.

If you are heading to Edinburgh Fringe, see No Direction from £8 at Assembly 3 in George Square, from August 1-26, at 2.50pm. Visit www.nodirectiontheplay.co.uk


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