On Tour: Red Shift

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The Independent Culture
With one or two exceptions I don't think there are many companies working in the way Red Shift does at the least fashionable end of the theatre market. It is not unusual for us to perform in a theatre space where there is a bar at the back and the shutters come down at the same time as the house lights. You get people sorting out the crates during the show. My feeling is that everyone enjoys a good story and provided they are convinced that that's what they're getting they will sit down and concentrate regardless of whether they're an audience of redundant mineworkers in Mansfield or a sophisticated Home Counties crowd.

The most extraordinary time was when we took a modern dress Macbeth to Santiago in Chile last year. We had machine-guns, loud percussion and lounge suits. Only two years before, the audience had been living in a political climate that paralleled the play. There were gasps and groans. It was the most electric, direct experience I've ever had.

The recession has been good to us, because it means our quality of life has risen. We no longer have to stay two to a room in bed and breakfasts. We can now get our own rooms in Forte hotels. There is very little social life during a tour, the actors have to cope with social isolation. They effectively walk away from domestic circumstances and become part of a different family. My job varies depending on where we are on the tour. It can sometimes just be cheering the actors up. I remind them that there's more to life than just slinging the set in the back of the van.

Jonathan Holloway is artistic director of Red Shift theatre company. His dramatic adaptation of 'Crime and Punishment' plays at BAC, Lavender Hill, London SW11 tomorrow to 14 May and tours to June

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