THE second professional in-house production at the Lantern Theatre takes place next week when artistic director Ruth Carney directs Richard Cameron’s drama, Can’t Stand Up for Falling Down.
It tells the stories of three women who are strangers to each other but are inexorably linked in having suffered abuse from the same man.
It’s a play that set in motion the career of the Doncaster-born playwright. “I wrote it in 1990 when I was still a drama teacher and I entered it for the National Student Drama Festival and from there it went to the Edinburgh Festival where it won several awards, one of which was to have a three-week run at the Hampstead Theatre,” he recounts.
“It sold out and got great reviews and as a result I became a full-time writer. I had been teaching for eight years and thought enough is enough and if I don’t take the jump now it will never happen. I did and I haven’t looked back. It has been done professionally and by amateur groups over the last 20 years and the monologues are often used as audition material.”
Cameron is delighted to see it revived at the Lantern. “I had read about the new venture and thought I would love to be involved and lo and behold Ruth rang me up and said we would like to do one of your plays. I thought Can’t Stand Up would be the most practical and perfect for the intimate space.”
Originally, Can’t Stand Up for Falling Down took a mere three weeks to write – “something I hadn’t done before or since” – and was not based on any particular story. “But I knew people who went through their life doing whatever they wanted to do without regard to the consequences for everyone else and the ripple effect they left in their wake.”
It wasn’t written specifically to be performed by his own students, though that did influence its structure. “I realised it had to be performed by three young women and one guy and I thought I didn’t have anyone at school who could play the bloke. Because of that I began to think I could do it as three monologues by the women about a character you never see.”
Cameron’s most successful stage play is Glee Club, about a Yorkshire miners’ choir, which ran in the West End and has toured the UK. “It’s about where I come from, South Yorkshire like pretty much everything else I do,” he reflects.
He has a play currently running at the Theatre by the Lake in Keswick, Roma and the Flannelettes: A Love Like Yours – “set in a women’s refuge in South Yorkshire with lots of Tamla Motown music”.
To dispel the notion everything he turns his hand to has Yorkshire connections, he is adapting Jonathan Coe’s novel, The Rotter’s Club, set in the West Midlands in the Seventies for the Birmingham Rep. In the past he penned Great Balls of Fire, the story of Jerry Lee Lewis, which premiered at the Belgrade Theatre, Coventry, and transferred to the West End. He has also written an episode of Midsomer Murders and last year adapted Silas Marner for the Radio 4 classic serial.
Cameron is back living in his home town after four years in the South of France. “I came back because my mother wasn’t very well but also I had found it hard to write,” he explains. “I felt strangely disconnected which I didn’t think I would because I carry everything around in my head. I think it was partly because I found so many other things to do out there like renovating a house.“
The writer is also involved involved in the New Writing Programme at the Lantern as one of three mentors.
Can’t Stand Up for Falling Down runs at the Lantern Theatre from Tuesday to Saturday.