‘It’s a showcase of talent’: Ruby stages her takeover

18 Mar 2013 @ 4.10 pm
| Entertainment

Ruby Clarke, artistic director of the TakeOver Festival at York Theatre Royal
grace-clarke-bylineGrace Clarke talks drama, dark comedy and knitwear with the woman at the helm of the TakeOver Festival


Ruby Clarke looks surprisingly rested considering it’s only days till her version of the TakeOver Festival is unleashed. A brief Twitter stalk reveals she’s a knitter and I’m intrigued to know whether or not she knitted the jumper she’s wearing – she did – leaving me embarrassed at my inability to master the art of knit one pearl one.

It’s a really good jumper.

She’s twenty five. Which she says is old but I don’t believe her. She’s got an MA in writing, directing, and performance, a BA in drama and a fair few directing credits under her belt, including being a prominent part of the team of directors behind last year’s incredible Mystery Plays. I’m reassured to find that despite all of this she’s currently working in a computer shop. It makes my crushing day job as a waitress seem a little less trapping.

After she completed her masters she was invited to lecture at Lancaster University for a year. Following that she worked as a youth practitioner where she taught theatre in schools and prisons. She’s not just interested in working with children though.

“I want to work with anyone who loves theatre. I always knew I wanted to be a director, but what inspires me is new writing,” she says. “It inspires me to get stuck into my own thing. I like dark comedy, like Dennis Kelly [writer of Utopia].

“It’s interesting that as humans we tend to find the comedy in everything, when something is really dark, that’s how we tend to react.”

This is something that’s clearly reflected in the first week of the festival. It tackles some important issues, but underpins it all with comedy. There’s a piece on the war in Iraq, Quicksand – directed by Ruby – one on gender politics, and of course, there’s everyone’s favourite feminist Carol Ann Duffy to round off the week.

The activist in me is slightly disappointed to find this was unintentional. But as this event is designed to encourage the city’s youth to get involved in theatre, I can accept her desire to create a programme featuring as many different mediums of theatre as possible. The fact that their themes are so interesting is, as she put it, a happy accident.

Ruby directs Quicksand, which tells the story of the soldiers stuck in the middle of the Iraq War
Ruby directs Quicksand, which tells the story of the soldiers stuck in the middle of the Iraq War

She’s certainly succeeded with her goal. We’ve got dance groups, rappers, poets, cabaret. You name it. All crammed into one week. And Ruby is also keen to promote a remarkable night of live theatre at St William’s College – the Imaginarium (Saturday, March 23).

“It’s a whole showcase of local and national talent. So it’s a variety: theatre, magic, dance. Kind of what the festival is, but it’s one venue and one ticket. The idea is you’ll go thinking you wanted to see a certain show, then leave thinking you’ll look out for such and such a person from now on, something you never even realised you were interested in.”

I realise quite quickly that her enthusiasm for theatre in general matches mine for the issues she’s tackling. The festival isn’t a political statement. It’s a celebration. With the June line-up just announced it looks like this is going to be an incredible year for the TakeOver festival.

At the end I panicked and asked Ruby what she thought of Les Misérables. She wasn’t impressed. With my question or the film.