It will be an unusual homecoming for Joshua Miles when he brings his new play to a Lancashire community centre. He tells FIONA FINCH why ‘be reet’ had to be premiered in Lancashire and why he is going back to school.
If you had told Joshua Miles he would “be reet” when he was a teenager he might not have been reassured.
But the actor from Higher Walton is delighted to say things did turn out reet ... even if he had some troubled times growing up.
The problem was Joshua’s sexuality and coming to terms with being different from the crowd.
His school, the then Lostock Hall High, was a fantastic launch pad for his acting career and he is full of praise for his teachers and the support the school gave him.
But it also the place where the word “gay” was used by some other pupils to make him feel uncomfortable.
It was when he confided to a teacher how he felt that all that changed.
Now he is back on his early home ground with a play and an inclusive message, keen to ensure no other youngster feels uncomfortable because of who they are or because they may be unsure of who they are.
His play, entitled ‘be reet’ will be premiered at Higher Walton Community Centre, near Preston, on April 5 and 6. It will also be performed twice at the Omnibus Theatre in Clapham on April 8.
Joshua will be going back to has old school, now called Lostock Hall Academy, to deliver acting workshops and speak at a whole school assembly.
The production has been crowd funded and also part financed by Joshua.
The 29 year old said: “Be reet is a northern English phrase meaning ‘it’ll be alright’. When I was 13 it didn’t feel like things were going to be alright. Partly autobiographical, be reet is about growing up gay in the north of England in the early noughties. It’s set in 2003 at a time when gay people were not represented in the media and on TV and in films the way they are today. In 2019 gay people are represented as many different groups of people.”
“It’s really important for young people to have role models they can aspire to be like.
“I just maybe felt a little bit slightly lost. I didn’t necessarily feel entirely comfortable at school. I didn’t really know how to fit in with all the other boys,but at the same time I really enjoyed playing football.”
He continued: “It’s about a quest for acceptance. Its first performances will take place in the village where I grew up and where the play is set and explores issues such as mental health, bullying and LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) in schools.”
The play will be performed in the round with five professional actors playing some 18 characters in what Joshua describes as “ a hilarious and heartfelt portrait of Lancashire life.”
Home is now London and his parents moved down south to Reading four years ago with work so, he says, they have called on favours from friends for digs for the actors and Joshua and family will be staying with his grandma in Mellor. His parents Louise and Matt have sorted transport and accommodation, his brother Oliver publicity.
It is not Joshua’s first experience of writing. As a youngster his talent was spotted early and he became a member of the National Youth Theatre where he was encouraged to write two plays ‘Final Farewell’ and “Sillybus”.
This is his first play written as an adult and has its origins many years ago when as a final year acting degree student at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama in London he opted to create an original piece of theatre.
He explained: “I chose to write my own play, it was like a monologue really and lasted about half an hour. I chose to write about my childhood. What I’ve done is turn it into a play with 18 voices.”
As the author and director he did he admits consider performing too, but opted instead to appear in the publicity poster and cast other actors in all roles: “I felt like I needed other people, new actors to bring life to it and breathe fresh air into it because it’s a deeply personal story and autobiographical.
“I want the story to resonate not just to people in Higher Walton and Lancashire. I want this story to reach as many people as possible.”
“The whole play is written from the perspective of a 13 year old and how to navigate through school and also what’s his life at home.To counter experience at school he’s a really supportive loving family. At the same time the parents are going through a financial crisis in their own life,”
Looking back he stresses his fellow pupils were not necessarily mean or nasty. They were certainly thoughtless - if he “went through a day without being called gay that would be a good thing. I think the main culprits were called in with their parents ... they were made to apologise. ”
His message to today’s pupils is to alert a member of staff to problems. He believes his play is particularly relevant as MPs recently approved teaching about LGBT relationships should form part of secondary and primary school syllabuses.
He concluded: “Hopefully it’s funny and moving and portrays people in a really positive way... I’m saying that absolutely things will be alright in the end. That’s definitely what I hope the message of the play will be - things will be fine even if it’s a bit grim right now. Speak to people about it. There are people in your school prepared to help...you are not on your own and it will be kept confidential.”
•The cast comprises: Rhys Isaac-Jones, Sally Messham, Petra Markham, Matt Sutton and Thomas Pickles.
•be reet will be performed at 12.30pm on Friday ,April 5, and at 2pm and 8 pm on Saturday, April 6 at the Higher Walton Community Centre.
Tickets from eventbrite see www.eventbrite.com/e/be-reet-tickets-56427826147
*Joshua was in TV sitcom Vicious with Ian McKellen and Derek Jacobi, was nominated Best Newcomer inBully Boy by Sandi Toksvig and was in a Lancaster Duke’s promenade production. Hansel & Gretel. He will appear this summer in London's Regent's Park outdoor production.