LUTG Interview: Joe Maddocks and Luke McDonnell

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In Week 6 this term Lancaster University Theatre Group bring their production of Jumpers for Goalposts to the Storey Institute in Lancaster. I sat down with Directors Joe Maddocks and Luke McDonnell to find out more.

Tell us a little bit about the show

Joe: The show is called Jumpers for Goalposts it is by an author called Tom Wells and it came out two years in 2013 where it debuted at Shepards Bush in London. It’s a play about a Sunday League Team operating in Hull, and it’s also a gay friendly team. You follow the team throughout the season, and it’s not necessarily a film about homosexuality or about football, although they both feature. It’s a play about friendship, and unity, and people finding their way in life. It’s quite a sweet play – it’s a romance essentially, when a new player joins the team, but that’s not the only storyline. We hope it’ll be quite uplifting.

Luke: It’s about these very individual characters in this very unique situation, of a pub five a side football for gay and lesbian bars in Hull. It’s very niche. Like Joe says, there’s lots of tender moments, but even those moments are quite fun. There are lots of fun aspects to it – one of the characters is trying to find a song to enter Hull Pride with, so there’s quite a few moments of music mixed in.

What drew you into the play, and want to perform it?

Luke: I think it’s the human nature of it. The big thing for me is the friendship aspect of the play, and how it changes through the arguments. But as much as they argue, you can see through the writing and performance, that no matter how much they argue they still really care for each other.

Joe: It’s an everyman play; it speaks about what it’s like to be an average person. Just trying your best, and hoping it works out okay.

How did this production come about?

Luke: I’d seen the play when it was at the Bush theatre a couple of years ago. I saw it 19 times, I was working there at the time. I’d always loved the play, and I had this script and I’d always wanted to put it on. I performed in 2 shows last year for Theatre Group, so I decided I wanted to direct. I asked Joe to be my co-director; because I’d seen it so many times I needed another eye on it as well. Then we proposed and it got in.

It’s your first time directing – how are you finding it?

Joe: We’ve settled into it quite nicely – we work well together. We don’t really argue, even when we have differences of opinion we work through it quite nicely.

Luke: We often find that when we’ve got two opposing ideas, we tend to find a middle ground, and that is usually the best way forward. It’s very relaxed – a lot of people warned us that we’d be really stressed, but we haven’t found that. Me and Joe are both really chilled. We like to say we’re good cop and bad cop, I’m definitely bad cop.

Will this production distinguish itself from the original?

Luke: We’re trying to, so we don’t just want to make a repeat of it, we want to make something new.

Joe: Because it’s so new, in a way it’s not like there’s been a series of different takes on it, so we’re trying to respond to that. I think we’ve found a few new interesting characterisations.

Luke: What we’re doing is going through the script, and pulling out what we like in in, and what we like in these characters, and focusing on that.

Where are you at in terms of production?

Luke: We’ve done 2 weeks of rehearsals, just going into our 3rd week. It’s all been going very smoothly, I think. Neither of us have directed before, so I feel like it’s going well, but it could be going horribly and we wouldn’t know.

Joe: We’ve got such a lovely cast and the atmosphere is great. They work so well together. It’s nice when you’re only two weeks in and you’re already so excited about the end product.

Do you find the cast still surprise you?

Luke: Oh definitely. Every day, every single rehearsal. Either they do something which is so off the wall, that we’d have never thought to do, or they just blow us away with their performance.

Joe: We had a very sad scene the other day, they just nailed it. Neither of us expected it to be as good as it was, we had to take a little moment.

Can I ask how you both first got involved in theatre?

Joe: I was pulled into it by a friend in Year 8. He wanted to go to this Youth Theatre meeting, and didn’t have anyone to go with so he dragged me along. Back in my home town, after that I was always involved in community theatre, whether onstage or backstage. I was involved in My Country’s Good last year, and then shadow directed Unit Nine. So I jumped at the chance to co-direct Jumpers.

Luke: Drama wasn’t offered at my school until GCSE, but I was always really keen to get involved, even in Primary School with the Nativity and everything, which I really enjoyed. I’d never really been involved in theatre, aside from GCSE and A-levels. At GCSE it was just fun, but when I got to A-Level I started taking it really seriously, actually working on what I was doing, thinking about it more in-depth. That’s when it became this potential career path. I joined (LUTG) in 2nd term last year, a lot of my friends on my course were doing, and it seemed a lot of fun. The reason I didn’t audition in 1st term is because I woke up too hungover.

Joe: So was I. I think it happened to our whole production team.

Which do you guys enjoy more – working backstage or onstage?

Luke: I think I prefer being on stage – most of the time. There are moments, like with Jumpers, where I want to step back and watch it and create. Generally though, I really enjoy the process of forming a character.

Joe: I prefer working backstage – being around people, and letting other people into the spotlight.

Catch the play at The Storey Institute from 12th-14th November. For more information head to the Lancaster University Theatre Group Facebook page.