As Tiny Room prepares for its inaugural tour with Peter Mulligan’s LOOP, we caught up with Joe Idris-Roberts, who now makes his professional directorial debut with this latest iteration of his company co-founder’s acclaimed play. Idris Roberts trained as an actor at RADA and, since graduating in 2015, has performed at the National Theatre and in the West End.
In LOOP, it’s closing time at the local pub. It has been another day of the same for the barman Chris who needs an escape. The night is far from over, though, as he is visited by some of the pub’s regulars. All feeling like disappointments in their own lives, they embark on a lock-in of raised glasses and lowered expectations. This raw, thought-provoking piece of new writing grapples with some heavy themes, including an honest exploration of depression and suicide.
LOOP opens at Coventry’s Albany Theatre on 9 September 2021, before touring to Bristol’s Tobacco Factory on 6 November, Leicester’s Y Theatre on 10 November, and Brighton’s The Lantern Theatre on 16 November.
How did you and writer Peter Mulligan meet?
Pete and I met in drama school. We both were the same age getting in so we did the learning process together I suppose. That’s where we founded Tiny Room and the ideas of LOOP.
Why did you form your company Tiny Room?
From my view, I think the reason I’m in with Tiny Room is because it’s trying to communicate and facilitate theatrical art in a more organic way. Pete and I have always had the same tastes in theatre, and so that working relationship is very egalitarian. But we’ve always liked and understood how bizarre what we do really is, so we have some good laughs.
Describe Loop in a nutshell.
It’s a one-hour play about depression and mental health in hospitality and the ‘professional’ industries.
What has the journey been with Loop to date?
It’s come a long way! Camden Fringe 2018; performances at Brewdog, Leicester and The Lion and Unicorn, Kentish Town; lastly, in an extract at The Questors in Ealing in 2019. I’ve been in with it from the start but always from afar… and this is my first time directing.
I’ve done music, sound effects, editing, casting and many other things towards it, but the best moment thus far has been working with the actors. For me, they really prove how far this play has come. From drama school chat to UK tour. And I’m excited as to where it could go to next.
What did you learn from earlier runs? What’s changed?
The addition of the character of Kitty was essential for creating the play we have now. In earlier versions, just the three male characters were present. Kitty adds much-needed perspective.
We’ve learnt that one must give away their play/film script/choreography etc. in order for art to start happening, and so a writer must give the play over to the director and the performers to mess about with. The actors themselves are adding so much that Pete and I could never have thought of by virtue of the fact that we’ve been very malleable to their individual processes, and by making the rehearsal room more equitable. That is certainly a change in perspective that we’ll take into the future.
— MyTheatreMates (@MyTheatreMates) August 27, 2021
Tell us about the current company of Loop.
I couldn’t talk more highly of them. They’re all brilliant! Daily I’m presented with new thoughts and concepts of the characters that I would never be able to think of on my own, and that really enriches the quite fantastic text that we’re all working with. I love working with individual processes, but we’re all knuckling down together to make this play a grand one, as we believe it is… and that energy is fantastic to work with.
How did Covid affect you and Tiny Room?
It was a bit of a rocky road… but we used the time to plan for as much as possible. The pandemic forced us all indoors together, so we used that as best we could, and with some reopening, we could quickly get this project together. It’s a show that people will want to see after all this. Some Proper Theatre.
What are your future plans?
Nothing in stone yet, but very grand ideas. Certainly we’d want to secure a London venue, and have it come back in a more regular fashion. Another tour would also be nice, but again staying in venues for more than one night. Sky’s the limit for this one really.
Anything else you’d like to add?
Working like this is a real dream come true for me. Loop encourages all the people working on it to bring their best, and that in turn creates the best version of the play. Yet everyone is free to mould to the moment, and utilise the space they’re performing in, to tell the story as it is, right to the souls of the individuals attending.
Every actor should try to direct and every director should try to act. We’d all learn so much.