Rude Mechanicals hit the road across East and West Sussex

The Rude Mechanical Theatre Company will head out on tour across both East and West Sussex this summer full of confidence for the future.

Pete Talbot
Pete Talbot

It’s a remarkable thing to say given the awful year the arts have had. But founder and artistic director Pete Talbot says the company’s future has been assured for the next ten years at least.

This summer they will be touring the play they should have toured last year, Little Lily Harley with an opening night on Friday, June 11 in Dial Post, West Sussex

The Eastbourne-based company will also take in venues including Halnaker, West Chiltington, Henfield, Ditchling, Eastbourne, Plumpton Green, Barcombe, Burwash, Lewes, Duncton, Wadhurst, Waldron, St Leonards, Milland and Rushlake. Tickets from the website.

It’s all looking good: “From the financial point of view, our supporters raised an enormous amount of money for us, and it has kept us going along the way,” Pete says. “It was just all donations.”

There was also council support, so Pete believes they would have somehow got through: “But what the donations from the supporters mean is that it has ensured we are in a situation where our survival is assured for at least three years. It took off our shoulders all the anxiety about just folding and disappearing, and we have been able to use the time well. We have put a sink in the studio. We have done up the van. We have done lots of practical things. We have reorganised as well and that has allowed me to write more.

“In the course of events, at the end of the year, I would say that it has all ensured the company’s life for at least ten years – which is ironic really considering how dark the times have been for everybody. But somehow this all means that we are going to be able to keep going for quite some time. I am feeling very optimistic about the future.”

“The play is written, the actors are cast, the venues are all booked – and we are desperate to get out there to cheer you up! We will be starting three weeks late, but that’s fine. Of course, if the wretched business keeps going on and on we may have to rethink, but we are very optimistic that we will tour this summer. We may well have to social distance our audiences but that’s fine too. We can do it and it will add to the fun. It’s a great play and all those pent-up emotions will come flooding out with and tears”

Little Lily Harley is a play about Charlie Chaplin’s childhood in Lambeth.

“With a drunken but charismatic actor father who was rarely around and a beautiful young actress mother who had three children by different fathers, Charlie had to learn alongside his big brother Sydney how to survive a very precarious existence.

“Sometimes cared for by other people, sometimes in a disciplinarian school for orphans and destitute children, sometimes separated from Sydney and sometimes living on the street, he nevertheless managed to triumph over all this to become arguably the greatest film actor ever.

“Hannah Chaplin, his mother (stage name Little Lily Harley –and the play is as much about her), taught Charlie how to go, as we call it, ‘though the little door’ into his imagination.

“Here he could dream and be anything, rehearse the characters he met, especially their walks, and escape from his pain.

“She taught him this especially when she had to go away, sometimes into the workhouse and sometimes into mental institutions as she lost grip of reality, so that he didn’t miss her. By aged five when she had a memory lapse on stage at the Aldershot barracks in the canteen, he took over and won the audience back.

“When I wrote this play in 2019, I could not have known how apt it would be for today. The message of hope and triumph over pain, through the imagination and laughter, is really important for today because people are desperate to see theatre, escape for a while and feel what hope can mean.”