Rule of Three: Interview With Co-Director of Rock Paper Scissors

As the The Crucible celebrates 50 years of entertaining Sheffield audiences, the venue is staging a bold production where one cast simultaneously performs three interlinked plays on the stages of The Crucible, The Lyceum and The Studio. Written by award-winning Steel City playwright Chris Bush, Rock/Paper/Scissors hits all three stages of Sheffield Theatres in June, and Exposed caught up with co-director Elin Schofield,to talk about local theatre, Sheffield stories and how to fathom out a tricky curtain call.

Words: Paul Szabo

Can you tell me what Rock/Paper/Scissors is all about and what makes it unique?
Rock/Paper/Scissors is about a scissor factory in Sheffield, which has suffered since the decline of the city’s manufacturing industry. When the last member of the owner’s family dies, three groups of people are vying for the ownership of the site. There are three standalone plays, but with intertwined characters, themes and stories, which are played out simultaneously across the three stages here in Sheffield. To the 14 members of the cast, they are in one play, but that play is set across three venues at once, so come rain or shine, they will be travelling across Tudor Square between theatres, whilst the audience stay put and see one show at a time. They might just see one show, and it will be engaging and satisfying, but if audiences come back and see one or both others, they will get a much richer experience and learn more about the lives of the characters.

The play is co-directed by three directors. How have you found that as a collaborative process? Was it a challenge to dovetail the different directional styles?
That is something that we talk about and think about a lot. We don’t want it to feel like it is three distinct processes for the actors, and for them to be pulled from pillar to post in terms of directional style and performance. We want to make sure that there is a feeling of consistency in the three plays whilst maintaining our distinct voices as artists, so we have been talking a lot to make sure that we are all on the same page. We are each taking responsibility for one play and have full creative teams for each show, but thankfully we all get on, so we can have those frank and necessary conversations to ensure a cohesive experience for the actors and audiences.

What has been useful is from the initial stages of designing the piece, we have all been involved each step of the way and know how each piece will feel. At the very heart of the production is the writer, Chris Bush, who has tied the piece together. She is the absolute lynchpin, and as directors, our job has been made much easier by her excellent writing.

co-director Elin Schofield

Rock/Paper/Scissors co-director Elin Schofield

This really is a homegrown production by Sheffield Theatres. How important do you feel regional theatre is, and how does the Crucible stand out from other regional theatres?
I think that regional theatre is amazing. I grew up in Manchester seeing shows at The Royal Exchange. Some people can’t imagine that there is anything more magical and special than theatre in London, but I have always loved watching and engaging with regional theatre, especially those that programme with their local audiences in mind and that support their local artists. Now more than ever, I think that regional theatre is so important. Travelling is riskier than before and we all need something to entertain us. The pandemic made it very difficult for regional theatres to survive, and I am pleased so many came through.

With the success of Everybody’s Talking About Jamie, and with the original cast back for a TV series of The Full Monty, what is it about a Sheffield story that resonates with a wider audience?
I feel like Sheffield is home even though I am not from here. In the 8 or so years I have lived here, I would say that a Sheffield story reflects the city’s heart, passion and humour; all of those things resonate on a national and international stage.Sheffield is a city that has always triumphed, even in difficult times, and there is a certain warmth about the place which really appeals to audiences.

I would say that a Sheffield story reflects the city’s heart, passion and humour; all of those things resonate on a national and international stage.

How does it feel to be at the centre of the celebrations for The Crucible’s 50th birthday?
It feels amazing. I watched shows here as a child, this before studying in Sheffield and falling in love with the place. I have worked at Sheffield Theatres for a while in various roles and I have learned so much from watching the work of [former artistic director] Daniel Evans and now Robert Hastie. I have always wanted to direct a Sheffield Theatres production, so to be asked really was a dream come true. I am an artist who was formerly supported by The Bank (the Crucible’s artist development programme) so to be given this opportunity following that, and to be back with the Sheffield Theatres’ family, is phenomenal.

What do you think audiences will take away from Rock/Paper/Scissors?
If you see one of the shows, we hope you will take away a beautiful Sheffield story full of interesting characters. If you see more than one, you will gain a new perspective on the world and the complexity of the characters within it. You’ll get a real sense of Sheffield today and what happens when the industry and the lifeblood of the city are precariously balanced. The only thing to do now is to work out how to get the entire cast together for their curtain call!

Rock/Paper/Scissors simultaneously runs in the Crucible, Lyceum and Studio from 19 June to 2 July. Individual and interwoven, you can enjoy one show or see all three! Tickets available from the Sheffield Theatres website

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