A heart-warming and hilarious new play, Ladies That Bus, which is based on real life interviews with bus travellers between Lancaster and Keswick, is set to bus around the North of England in Spring 2020.
A tale of journeys taken and not taken, of regrets and celebrations, of isolation and what it means to be free, Ladies That Bus is based on real-life interviews with bus travellers in the North, and peppered with humour, songs and original music. The play shows a day-in-the life of the Route 555 bus travelling from Lancaster to Keswick, and the kaleidoscope of different characters that travel on it – each with their very own tales to tell.
Ladies That Bus is the creation of actor and composer Helen Longworth (currently playing Hannah Riley in Radio 4’s The Archers); director Kirstie Davis (Kiss me Quickstep by Amanda Whittington, Queens Theatre, Hornchurch, Theatr Clwyd and New Wolsey); writer and actor Joyce Branagh (Boomtown Gals – winner Best Performance at Manchester Theatre awards); theatre-maker and actor Eve Robertson (Mavis Sparkle, M6 Theatre Company Rochdale) and Nicola Jayne Ingram (A Tigers Tale, M6 Theatre Company and Aladdin, Lawrence Batley Theatre Huddersfield). The play has been created in association with The Dukes, Lancaster, Theatre by the Lake, Keswick, the Brewery Arts Centre, Kendal and supported with funding from Arts Council England. It will tour to The Dukes, Lancaster (6-9 Feb); Brewery Arts Centre, Kendal (11-12 Feb); York Theatre Royal (13 Feb); Theatre by the Lake, Keswick (14-15 Feb); Cast in Doncaster (18 Feb); Spurn Point Community Centre (19 Feb); Hull Truck (20 Feb); Harrogate Theatre (21-22 Feb); Lawrence Batley Theatre, Huddersfield (24 Feb); Oldham Coliseum Theatre (26 Feb); Carriageworks, Leeds (27 Feb); and Todmorden Hippodrome (29 Feb).
Ladies That Bus is the result of an idea that Dukes Theatre, Theatre by the Lake and Brewery Arts Centre had of supporting a production which focused on their area of the country. They realised that the Route 555 Bus connected all three venues, and so asked for ideas that might celebrate the bus and the communities that surround the route. And so, the Ladies That Bus project was born.
Eve Robertson had the idea for the title. “There’s a group of older ladies down in London who regularly do trips on different buses just for a grand day out – and that idea really appealed to us. They called themselves the Ladies Who Bus – and so we thought we’d give it a more Northern slant and be the Ladies That Bus!”
In September last year the ‘Ladies’ met over 500 people during interviews, workshops and on the 555 itself, getting to know the area, the people and the stories.
“We didn’t know what to expect” says Joyce Branagh, the lead writer on the project “we didn’t know what people would tell us – but it’s been amazing, and such a range – from secret love trysts, tipsy Abba tribute acts, teenage ‘bus tribes’, and the people that we’ve lost, to the simple things that have brought joy, as well as one real-life murder. We’ve heard it all.”
“One group we met really touched us” says Nicola Jayne Ingram, one of the performers who led workshops in Heynsham and Bolton-le-sands libraries “some of the group had had really rough times, but they were excited to tell us about their experiences. One lady even sang us a song she’d written as we gave her a lift to her hospital appointment, as she’d missed the bus!”
“One of the groups told us about their workplace annual outing” says Helen Longworth, composer and performer “that after their works annual outing got cancelled, they decided to do it themselves – they would save up all year and then all go for a day out on the bus, all of them determined to have a great time whatever the weather. They were so inspiring that I’ve written a rousing anthem about them. It’s going to end the show and anyone who would like to learn the song can come along to each venue, learn the chorus and then sing it along with the company at the end of the show.”
Kirstie Davis is the director tasked with bringing all the stories together “We did a ‘scratch night’ at the Dukes theatre – showed about 20 minutes of the play in it’s very early stages – and were overwhelmed with the feedback we got. People were calling the box office the next day to buy tickets! People were really engaged with the stories, we saw a few tears and we heard a lot of belly laughs – and that’s what we want really, people to be entertained and touched by stories that ring true.”
For more information about the show, or to book tickets audiences can go to any of the tour venues listed above or ladiesthatbus.co.uk