INTERVIEW: The Bounds | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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The year is 1553, the true Golden Age of English football. It’s the Allen Valley Whitsun Game, and men will die today. The introduction to The Bounds throws up more questions than you’ll ever get answered – unless you go to experience it yourself. This is Northumberland writer Stewart Pringle’s first production with Live Theatre, and he’s keeping his cards well close to his chest.

I’m trying not to give too much away, because I think one of the fun things about this play should be how it keeps shifting and changing, and how the audience are thrown into the same dark, terrifying night as the characters. It’s certainly true that the Allen Valley’s Game that Percy and Rowan are playing is really only the start of a great and tumultuous unravelling of their lives. The earth is shifting beneath their feet, and in the heavens above them too…”

Pringle’s interest in flash points – “moments in history in which everything changes, irrevocably and forever, but you can only ever see them in the rear view mirror, when the flow of time and history begins to fall into a pattern” – has fed the creation of The Bounds: part football, part history, part comedy, blended to become more than a sum of its parts.

I knew very little about football when I started writing this, and still don’t know a huge amount. Football in the 16th Century wasn’t much like the modern day game at all, and to be honest we don’t know huge amounts about it. The game you see in The Bounds is a composite of ancient Whitsuntide games and the modern sport. It’s the pies, the chants, the scarfs from the modern game alongside the days-long mud-splattered ultraviolence from the Tudors.”

It’s a Northumbrian story. It’s a love letter, of sorts. Just a pretty dark and strange one

Stewart Pringle has put his heart and soul into the construction of this play – and it was an intensely personal venture from the very beginning. “It had to be set in Allendale, where I grew up. This is a story forged from that landscape; the fells and bogs that fringe the Allen Valleys, that wild countryside, local weirdness and local pride. It’s a Northumbrian story. It’s a love letter, of sorts. Just a pretty dark and strange one.”

Live Theatre pride themselves on producing new shows from new talent, making it the perfect first home for The Bounds before it’s taken on to a London run at the Royal Court Theatre this summer. “It’s a total dream to be making this at Live, and with artists of such an incredibly high calibre. [Artistic Director/Join CEO] Jack McNamara is an incredible artist and human, who is making that place into the most incredible, diverse, political powerhouse. He’s light years ahead of us all in ambition, drive, compassion and sense. His Royal Court is going to blow everyone away.“

With its roots firmly in the North East, it’s fitting that The Bounds features a largely North Eastern cast. “Authenticity is always important, but I’ve got to say this has all been part of Jack’s vision for the show. He said, ‘This is a Northern show, it has to be made with Northern artists’. And he’s so right. I’m sure we could find some amazing actors in London with ‘Accents: Geordie’ on their resume, but that’s not the same as proper North East talent. I know what that incredible audience is like in Live – they’re canny as all hell, they can smell what feels real and what feels like an act. Then we get to take these incredible creatives down to the flippin’ Court! I just hope Sloane Square’s ready for them…”

The Bounds is performed at Live Theatre, Newcastle from Thursday 16th May-Saturday 8th June.  The production then moves to London’s Royal Court from Thursday 13th June-Saturday 13th July. 

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