After hit runs in 2013 and 2014, Rumble! is revived in a brand-new, recast production directed by its author Yasir Senna. As performances start this week at London’s Drayton Arms Theatre, where the limited season runs until 4 December 2021, Yasir took a break to tell us about the play and how much his new leading lady and cast bring to it. Time to get booking!
It’s 2009 and the nation is in the midst of a recession. Times are tough and only the toughest survive. Into the fray steps Alisha Harper-Gill, a diligent professional who suddenly finds herself facing a disciplinary action instigated by her male bosses. With dismissal impending, the odds are stacked against her, and Alisha has to make a decision. Does she hand in her letter of resignation, thereby saving her reputation, or does she confront her opponents and Rumble!?
In Rumble!, Claire-Monique Martin stars as Alisha, alongside Richard Houghton Evans, Chris Lloyd James, Ian Recordon, Christopher Poke, Roselle Hirst, Jonathan Forrester, Kerry-Ann Goode, Martin Balanow and Katie Cannon.
Yasir Senna is an actor, writer, director and producer. His own recent acting credits include The Lady Killers, They, A Passage to India, Romeo and Juliet and The Three Sisters. His other playwriting successes include She Wears Scented Rose, staged by his Razor Sharp Productions in 2017 and 2018.
What is Rumble! about?
Rumble! is about a woman who finds herself at the end of a disciplinary hearing instigated by her male bosses, and it’s all about how she fights it. The play was inspired by the harsh culture of the work environment which existed then and continues to exist today.
What inspired you to write Rumble!?
I tend to write a lot about the experiences I’ve gone through. The main story behind Rumble! is something which I‘d seen some people go through, and I thought it would be good to write about it. I also went through something similar myself, and without giving too much away about the story, I just felt it’s something that needed to be told. We all have a voice and we all have a story and I wanted to tell this one.
How did you find your leading lady in Claire Monique Martin?
The brilliant Claire Monique Martin is the fifth actress we’ve had for this part, as this has been staged four times previously. We held auditions in July, and although it was a rigorous process, she came head and shoulders above all the other candidates.
I wanted this version of Rumble! to be different from the other versions we had staged, and Claire has brought so many new and interesting ideas to the rehearsal room that the production has been greatly enhanced. She really knows her stuff and is a very good fit for the part. What I liked about Claire was she didn’t look like the Alisha I had in my head so she was able to add to the role in ways I couldn’t see or was expecting.
What challenges have you found in bringing the play to stage?
This is a great question. Rumble! has been done four times before and directed by me twice. The big difficulty that I had was that I wanted to come up with something different from what we had done before, which was a challenge.
I’m a big advocate of allowing actors to express themselves and suggest thoughts and ideas. As time went by, we came up with something far different from what I originally wanted but at the same time better. We maintained the pace, but the staging is different in terms of some of the scenes.
The other challenge was working with a cast whom, in the main, I had never worked with before. I love working with different types of people and then incorporating their various skillsets within the production. Doing the play against the backdrop of Covid was also challenging, but I think this is the best version of Rumble! that I’ve come up with.
What drives your directing style?
I don’t really have a style. My style is based on people management rather than technical.
Firstly, I want to work with actors who actually want to be involved in the production for the love of it. If you can get actors who want to be here because they are passionate about what they are involved in, they will contribute more to the production.
Secondly, I like to create an atmosphere and environment where everyone feels comfortable to speak out and suggest thoughts. It’s through that sort of environment that the best ideas will come. The best ideas can come from anywhere, whether it be the director, actor, or even the guy who delivers the props.
That is my style, an open style of collaborative working.
The play is set in 2009. Why is important for today?
The story that Rumble! is based on took place in 2009, and I wrote the play in 2011. You can’t bring it into the modern day as the workplace has changed and the way the script is structured wouldn’t work in the modern day.
Since 2009, there have been a lot of initiatives to make things better. For example, talking about mental health or sexual equality and diversity. These kinds of discussions were in their infancy in 2009.
The recession had an impact on how the story was written. Recessions tend to bring out certain behaviours in people and this play does show that.
What are you most excited for the audience to see?
I’m most excited about the fact that they’ll come in and see something that they have not seen before. The audience are effectively going on a roller coaster – they do not know what they are in for. But once the ride is over, they will realise they have experienced something memorable.
Rumble! runs from 23 November to 4 December 2021 at the Drayton Arms Theatre, 153 Old Brompton Road, London SW5 0LJ, with performances Tuesday to Saturday at 7.30pm, Saturday matinees at 3pm. Tickets are priced £16 (concessions £14). CLICK HERE TO PURCHASE!