Ros Asquith Topics List

Topics List  taken from her interview with Jessica Higgs, January 2010 at the Guardian Building, King’s Place, recorded by Jessica Higgs
Audio extracts edited by Jessica Higgs

Background, college and joining Inter-Action
Born Hove, parents moved to Putney when she was one
Has lived more of her life now in North London
First introduction to North London when she joined Inter-Action,
based in Kentish Town, at 22
Studied graphics and illustration at Camberwell Art School
Left in 1972 Looking for work and got job with Inter-Action as a graphic designer
Her experience with photography helped get the job
Paid £7per week which wasn’t a lot even then
The company lived in a row of condemned houses in Kentish Town which
the council let them use
Rotas for cooking ED Berman who ran Inter-Action only ever cooked hot dogs
She was mocked as ‘silly posh girl’
Fundraising activities and work in the community

Dogg’s Troupe and Father Xmas Union
Actors at the time included Henry Goodman, Patrick Barlow, and Geoff Hoyle
who could stand up in front of kids and be anything
They’d say be a carrot and you’d look and couldn’t see Geoff anymore he was that good
Involvement with the Dogg’s Troupe street theatre, and members of the
Father Christmas Union( the FXU), doing all kinds of events
One Christmas they invaded Barkers department store where the
army were demonstrating weapons by the children’s area
The FXU l(20 Father Christmases) led by ED said
‘withdraw your troops from my sanctuary or I’ll attack.’
Next day they did

Almost Free Theatre
Tom Stoppard wrote plays for them at the Almost Free Theatre
[Rupert Street, Piccadilly] which started while she was there
Work involved getting people off the streets into the theatre
It was ‘pay what you like, but please more than a penny’
Shows at lunchtime and in the evenings. All night get- ins
She painted the props for Stoppard’s show for the Dogg’s Troupe
Dogg’s Our Pet (anagram of Dogg’s Troupe)
He also wrote the Dogg’s Troupe 10 Minute Hamlet which could be
reduced to 2 minutes for those with low concentration
Stoppard was already getting established through the success of his
Real Inspector Hound at Edinburgh Festival

She was named as set designer and was official photographer at the Almost Free
Within a week of arriving at Inter-Action RA was sent to do a tape-slide
synchronisation at the ICA for 100 kids
Thrown in at the deep end but it was the way you learnt
Inter-Action made you do the impossible

Fun Art Bus
The Fun Art Bus started the same year
She did cartoons inside on the top floor where plays were performed
by Henry Goodman, Patrick Barlow, Jim Hiley, Geoff Hoyle, Katya Benjamin
and a number of visiting actors
This was community work at its best
Theatre was a theatre upstairs and a cinema downstairs showing art films
The bus conductor issued tickets that had poems on them by the
Liverpool poets – Roger McGough, Brian Patten…
On the back of the bus there was a blow-up photo of the Inter-Action
members which made it look like the bus was full
The bus conductor had a guitar, the driver a keyboard on the bonnet
When the bus stopped they would sing and play
Tickets were free
The bus would go along bus routes and would pick members of the public
waiting for their bus – they’d get a play or film, a poem by a poet, a bit of a song
This was Inter-Action’s ethos – taking art into the community
Did the same with the Street Theatre and the Almost Free
(where Foco Novo and Naftai Yavin amongs others would also work)

First cartooning work and more on Inter-Action
Cartooning work began then
Created a book of dog cartoons
helped by Mel Calman and sold them on the streets, rather like
a cigarette girl
Nothing published then and this work was put on
hold when she was a theatre critic till later
Sometimes people got on bus during the middle of a play, films
running at the same time as plays
She went on the Bus occasionally to assist and check all was OK
Her cartoons on top deck were puns to do with dogs and connection with the
Dogg’s Troupe who were performing there, like ‘Dogma’ – a dog with puppies.

She can’t recall any objections to the bus,
believes the driver couldn’t have been a trained one [he was]
and thinks they had a garage for the bus

Almost all Inter-Action ideas came from and were driven by Ed Berman,
although Naftali Yavin and TOC (The Other Company) were hugely
involved with the Almost Free

Inter-Action Games
Inter-Action were also doing many workshops around, as with their work
with children with disabilities, planting trees – they were ahead of their time –
environmental stuff
Group games American-style like Daisy Trust where one person
stands in the middle of a circle and falls, with the others catching them
This built trust between them all and they worked well together
because of these kind of bonding activities
Her involvement  with the nuts and bolts of the work – taking &
developing photos, designing sets, drawing cartoons, doing programmes
Henry Goodman and Patrick Barlow would be able to speak
more about the creative side, especially Dogg’s Troupe

More on the Almost Free Theatre
Jessica Higgs on how the Lunchtime Theatre began at Theatrescope,
moving to Ambiance to Green Banana, ICA and finally settling in Rupert Street
and the Almost Free where the influential ‘season of plays’  –
women’s, gay and Black – happened
Ros Asquith saw many of them and remembers Offending the Audience by Peter Handke play,
directed by Yavin for TOC, most vividly, as it did -offend the audience
You had to pay something to go to the Almost Free Theatre, and
some people would pay just a halfpenny or a penny
She would stand outside like a town crier and encourage people in from the streets
Very lively atmosphere. It seemed and still seems to her the most
democratic way of doing art
Some people are still doing this kind of thing at Edinburgh and elsewhere
The first nights were full of the usual suspects but thereafter
a wide- ranging audience drawn from the streets, people who
had never thought of going to the theatre before
It was in the heart of London. Pizza Express started
around the same time – by Peter Boizot who was a mate of Ed’s

An exciting time for her, had a modest role there and was very green
Stayed a year Inter-Action had a core group of about 10 people
including Barlow and Hoyle, then there were another 20 volunteers
(everyone was on £7 per week) who would be there for a year
Out of those 4 were asked back for another year
She was but because of some romantic issues decided to move on

Time Out
Getting into theatre criticism at Time Out
Initially worked on an ecology magazine called Resource and then freelanced
Loads of different jobs
She had become known for her photography and was doing some for The Observer
on a job where the writer didn’t turn up
She ended up doing the piece, thus fell into writing work
Got a job at Time Out doing the theatre listings
The TV editor gave her some writing workwhich in turn led to work on the theatre pages
One early show she covered was Monstrous Regiment’s Scum: Death,
Destruction and Dirty Washing
when it was outside London in Cardiff
She thought it was amazing and her review secured sell-out performances for them when they got to London
She got more work after that
Reviewed for up to 20 years
Reminded of the RSC’s renowned 1980 Nicholas Nickleby
Monstrous Regiment/David Edgar connection. David Edgar
had written a show for Monstrous Regiment [Teendreams] that
she hadn’t cared for
She had been commissioned to do a piece on David Edgar before
the opening of Nicholas Nickleby
She had read the book, a Dickens biog and the play prior to her interview with him
In the end she was asked to review the show which she found outstanding
and said so in her Time Out review
Other critics didn’t like it and Time Out editor didn’t want to run her review
She insisted hers went in and it turned out she was right
Other critics had to see it again and reappraise their critiques
When Time Out broke up and a splinter group formed City Limits in the early 1980s
David Edgar supported the City Limiters as it was those, he said,
who had first championed Nicholas Nickleby

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