Emily Collins is the assistant director of Fragment, The North Wall’s new co-production with Iron Shoes. Writing from the rehearsal room ahead of its premiere next week, Emily reflects on what the show’s setting means to her:
As someone who was born and grew up in the North East, going to Redcar was always considered a huge treat. Whenever the sun came out or me and my friends had an unexpected day off from revision and school work, Redcar was the go-to place to have a fun day to ourselves.
These memories and first experiences of independence make it one of my favourite places: so it’s an interesting experience for me to see Redcar through the eyes of Lester Fall. He sees this North Eastern seaside town as a ghost town of sad memories and heartbreak: only coming back because he has nowhere else to go.
In spite of this set-up, what I love most about Fragment is the North-Eastern pride that runs throughout it. Images from a local production are filtered throughout the piece and the dialogue is punctuated with the frank sense of humour and fire in its belly. John Hoggarth’s script plays with poisonous stereotypes of working class people and smashes them to pieces. Confrontational characters show their soft side, arguments hide a need for connection and we learn through Lester Fall’s interactions with others how important it is not to judge people before we get to know them. It shows North Eastern people as kind, surprising and not afraid to give you tough love when you need it: exactly what I have come to know about the region from growing up there.
Performing as Lester Fall, Tony Bell’s characterisation is like a deflated balloon that can reflate with agitation at any second, and Ria Parry (director) handles this mixture of sudden rage and despondency with delicacy and real care. Her vision for the journey of Lester is clear and precise, just like the notes she gives to the actors. Even amidst his pessimism and frequency and insensitivity, both Ria and Tony recognise that Lester has a heart of gold in there somewhere and watching the pair work together to bring this out is gorgeous. With this, Fragment shows us that it’s never too late to save an embittered soul, or see beauty in something that once resembled emptiness.