Published: 08/05/2009 00:00 - Updated: 25/11/2011 14:15

The Ducky is central to coming of age story

Sally Reid (left) as Norma and Hannah Donaldson (Michelle) in Borderline Theatre's 'The Ducky'.
Sally Reid (left) as Norma and Hannah Donaldson (Michelle) in Borderline Theatre's 'The Ducky'.

THE success of Daniel Jackson's "The Wall" last year lifted some of the gloom surrounding the well-established Borderline Theatre after the loss of their previous funding status with the Scottish Arts Council.

The company has hit the road again with the second part of what is shaping up to be a trilogy.

"I had always planned it as a trilogy, but you are a lunatic if you write a play and think that it will automatically go on to the next one," the writer explained.

"Life's not necessarily like that. I always hoped it might work out that way, but I didn't really think that there would be the demand for it.

"So you can put me down as surprised and delighted that it is actually happening, but in my head it was always the plan. Now that I've written the first two I am really hoping that we get to do the third one. I have a pretty clear idea of where I want to go with it."

There is a family connection at work here. Daniel, one of Scotland's most promising emerging playwrights, is the son of Eddie Jackson, founder and director of Borderline. The plays are all based in Daniel's native Stewarton in Ayrshire, and "The Ducky" takes up the story two years on from "The Wall". But what exactly is the Ducky?

"It's a swimming hole in Stewarton," Jackson revealed.

"On the first day of rehearsal myself and the cast and director all trooped out there and I have to say it was not as I remembered! I had obviously built it up a bit in my head it was barely possible to see how you could even swim in it, it was more like a ditch, a dingy little bit of the River Annick that I had built in my mind into a tropical lagoon or something.

"So the ducky in the play is more the one in my imagination than the real one. It functions a bit like the wall in the first one, a place where the characters gather. I never swam in it myself, I have to admit, but others that were braver then me definitely did."

The play takes up the stories of three of the four characters from "The Wall", but Jackson feels strongly that it stands on its own, and it is not necessary to have seen the earlier work to enjoy it.

That is a view shared by the play's director, Jemima Levick.

"I agree with Daniel about that," she said.

"That was one of my biggest concerns, the idea that people might not come and see it if they hadn't seen 'The Wall'. It does feel like it stands on its own, though. If you have seen 'The Wall' then there is probably a little bit extra there for you, but if you haven't, you still get to experience the play in its own right and you don't need to know the earlier one."

The play explores the lives of five young adults after leaving school. Barry, one of the central characters in "The Wall", is away travelling, but the three others, Michelle (now played by Hannah Donaldson), Norma (Sally Reid) and Rab (Finn Den Hertog) are all back, with two new characters, Trevor (Alan Tripney) and Cooney (Jonathan Holt) filling out the cast.

"They are all about two years older, and are at that tricky stage when you have left school and are trying to work out what you are going to do with your life," Jackson explained.

"In the current economic climate that is probably trickier than ever I found it hard enough in the mid-90s when the economic opportunities were allegedly boundless."

For Jemima Levick, who took on the directing role at Jackson's request, the job of coming in on the back of Gregory Thompson's successful direction of "The Wall" proved a challenge, but one she relished.

I wondered how she had gone about putting her own stamp on it?

"I think the great thing about Daniel's writing is that his own stamp is so strong," she said.

"I felt that while Gregory did a brilliant job directing 'The Wall', it was really Daniel's writing that was the main strength of the show, and Gregory allowed that to come through. My determination is to make sure that it is Daniel's voice that is heard again this time.

"I feel he has developed as a writer even in the short time between these plays and we can all relate to the situation that these young adults find themselves in."

Becky Minto's striking set for "The Wall" was one of the notable features of the earlier play, and she is again in charge of design for this one, ensuring a degree of visual as well as thematic continuity that Levick who has just been appointed as the new Associate Director at Dundee Rep Theatre was keen to achieve.

"Becky obviously had a history with 'The Wall' that I didn't, but I said to her when we started on the design that I wanted to have bits of old set left in," she explained. "We have used some of the same materials and while it's different you can tell that it is part of the same world, and the writing does that anyway.

"It's very much an ensemble piece and we have two of the same actors, Sally and Finn, coming back again. They seem to be really enjoying revisiting their characters and working out how they will have changed in the two years that have passed and building on what they did before.

"Hannah Donaldson has been doing great stuff in taking on the character of Michelle. She is a little older than Kirsten, who played her in the first one, which is appropriate for the character."

If all goes well, the third instalment "The Chooky Brae" will be produced next year.

* "The Ducky" is at the OneTouch Theatre, Eden Court, on Tuesday and Wednesday.

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