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Scene from Caliban's Codex (photo: Max).

Scene from Caliban’s Codex (photo: Max).

John Knowles’ busy year!

HOT reporter Bevali Francis gets a run-down of the many upcoming plays, projects and plans of our very own John Knowles. Photos by Peter Mould except where stated.

John Knowles, Hastings-based actor, producer and playwright, will be championing all things theatre for Hastings and St Leonards this year. His busy schedule of work takes your breath away, he has just returned from the Leeds Literary Festival where he produced V, a play by Tony Harrison. John tells me that Jonny Magnanti and he are looking to tour with the play late in 2019 and 2020.

Toy Belch (Is Unwell): one of John Knowles' monologues based on a secondary Shakespearean character.

Toy Belch (Is Unwell): one of John Knowles’ monologues based on a secondary Shakespearean character.

His many performances and projects begin in earnest in the next few weeks when he will be taking his plays Toby Belch (Is Unwell) and Caliban’s Codex to Prague Fringe Festival which starts on the 28 May. Both 40-minute monologues are based on Shakespearean secondary characters.

Toby Belch (Is Unwell) is a monologue about a debauched drunk facing the end of his life realising that he is seen as a buffoon, a drunken sot and a bully. Caliban’s Codex is the story of Caliban painstakingly sifting through the ashes of the books of magic, slowly piecing together a new language and a way to save this island from mankind’s abuse.

New and old works at the Fringe

John has an extensive repertoire of work playing at The Edinburgh Fringe this year too. He will be showcasing new works as well as some tried and tested performances. Amongst his new works for Edinburgh will be Punched. John tells me: ”This is a play that explores the rise of the angry white male and the supposed suppression of the working class voice. Punched exposes the hypocrisy of the working class anger, when it’s turned on its own. The play examines domestic violence (a theme I explored in Time Please).

“This is a visceral and violent expression of a difficult subject. Keith Goodman is a wronged man. He’s lost his kids, his house, his PlayStation….oh and his wife, and none of it is his fault!”

Shadow of the Rose will also premiere at Edinburgh. This is a play specifically written for students of the Pauline Quirke Academy, a play for teenage actors which provides equal parts and monologues for the student actors. The subject matter of the play is based on the real-life transcripts of the White Rose Group, a student group in Munich, who fought a pacifist resistance to Hitler’s National Socialist regime and who were eventually caught and guillotined after a show trial before the notorious People’s Court.

Time Please, a play by John and Kate Tym, will also be at Edinburgh performed by  Fetch Theatre and produced by Verity Rae-Martin. So if you are going to be at the Edinburgh Fringe there’s plenty of chance to catch some of John’s work.

Shows in Coventry and Serbia

In June Hitler Pizzeria, a brilliant play that I was lucky enough to get tickets for on its sell-out St Leonards performances, will see its named changed to Bar Barian. This thought-provoking play will be performed at the Belgrade Theatre in Coventry in 2020. The Balkan producing house will be working with John to develop a week-long run in Serbia too.

Fiction Romance, with Patrick Kealey.

Fiction Romance, with Patrick Kealey.

John has also been commissioned to write a new play for the Widgeon Theatre (a canal boat theatre space) about life on the canals, with songs by Rory McLeod.
Alongside all the producing and writing John is also very keen to form a local theatre network for theatre-makers and producers. He anticipates this would work much like the Hastings and St Leonards Arts Forum, acting as a support network for local independent theatre-makers as well as running workshops, talks and theatre-focused events.

“However, my big aim is to establish a theatre space in which local work can be developed and touring shows accepted,” John tells me. “The one continuous cry from local theatre-makers is, give us a space, and to date this hasn’t happened. Now we want to take things into our own control and build a space where we can create high quality theatre and support a network of shows. It’s time we had our own space and time where we can work as theatre-makers like to, together.”

As if this amount of work wasn’t quite enough, John is also planning a fund-raiser to help tour his shows. Fiction Romance, the third in the series of Shakespeare inspired monologues based on Antonio from Twelfth Night, will be performed by local actor Patrick Kealey, with Bob Tipler creating the music. Fiction Romance will premiere at St Leonards Public House on the 14, 15 and 16 April. I’m sure that like lots of other performances I have seen involving John, these will be unmissable nights.

John Knowles in Tony Harrison's V.

John Knowles in Tony Harrison’s V.

Posted 11:38 Wednesday, Mar 27, 2019 In: Performance

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