TODAY’S forecast for York is cloudy, with a moderate breeze, and a temperature of 17 degrees centigrade.
A grey day, but come rain or shine, Marsden’s Mikron Theatre Company would be performing Lindsay Rodden’s Red Sky At Night in the open air this afternoon at Scarcroft Allotments in their regular summer visit.
One of two plays taking to the roads and canals to mark Mikron’s 50th anniversary of “touring theatre anywhere for anyone”, Rodden’s premiere will spotlight the everyday topic we all talk about: the weather.
“Through an incredible half-a-century, whatever the weather, Mikron have travelled the country, chronicling our histories, our struggles, our passions and our lives,” says Lindsay, whose own journey has taken her from Scotland, to growing up in Merseyside, then County Donegal, and now living in North Shields.
“I am over the moon to write just one of these stories, and say Happy Birthday Mikron, fighting fit and fifty years young!”
Three years ago, Lindsay was among writers invited to Marsden, the West Yorkshire village near Huddersfield, for writing sessions. “I’d seen Mikron’s work before and absolutely loved it, wherever I saw them, up by the Scottish border, north Cumbria and by the Wirral, and I’m so excited that the time spent at Marsden has led to this play.”
The pandemic, rather than rain, stopped play when Red Sky At Night should have been premiered last year. “It may have been shoved back by a year, but it’s been worth it for the extra time to work on it,” says Lindsay.
Picking a topic for a play, weather ticks all the boxes, given how, through the chronicles of history, people have gazed up and marvelled at the mysteries of the weather. Generations have tried to master the elements and understand the magic of the skies.
“My family is from Donegal, in Ireland, where it’s not unusual to have four seasons in one day: Factor 50 at the height of the day, thermals at night,” says Lindsay.
“For the play, I did quite a lot of historical research and meteorological research, and I’m not an expert in either, but I did know about how the weather can change our emotional state.
“I hit on the idea of having a central character who hides from the weather, finding it dangerous and unpleasant when you can stay at home and have a cup of tea instead.”
In Red Sky At Night, Hayley’s sunny, beloved dad was the nation’s favourite weatherman. She is now following in his footsteps, to join the ranks of the forecasting fraternity. Or at least, local shoestring teatime telly.
When the pressure drops and dark clouds gather, Hayley melts faster than a lonely snowflake. She may be seen as the future’s forecast, but will anyone listen?
“We all have weather inside us: sunny days, grey days, rainy days, emotional storms, but that means we need to get out there to experience something bigger.
“The weather can have that effect on you, but you’re also aware how it’s capricious, where there’s this giant, theatrical sky above us and we ignore its majesty at our peril.”
Explaining Hayley’s behaviour, Lindsay says: “I think, to a degree, we all want to rebel against our parents while at the same time following the patterns they set.
“I do feel that way, but without giving too much away, something happened to Hayley’s dad that made her retreat from the outside world, holing herself up at home, only occasionally looking out of the window.”
Climate change has its impact on the play too. “I always knew the climate crisis would be important to it, but once you start to study weather and meteorology, you realise all life is dependent on it, when we interrupt the balance of life at our peril , when all the conditions should have been right for a perfect world – but you’ve still got to be hopeful that it’s not too late,” says Lindsay.
“You have to access the calm sunrise, rather than the raging storm, inside you.”
Mikron Theatre Company in Red Sky At Night, Scarcroft Allotments, York, 2pm today. No ticket required; Pay What You Feel after the performance. The tour runs until October 21; full itinerary at mikron.org.uk.
Weather tip of the day: If you can see the hills, it’s going to rain. If you can’t see the hills, it’s raining.
Mikron’s weather advice for the tour: Bring your anorak and your Factor 50. Well, you never know.
Did you know: Lindsay Rodden is working on a practice-based PhD on dramaturgy and political theatre with Leeds University and Red Ladder Theatre Company.