Interview: theatre director Gareth Nicholls on the touring production of Joe Douglas’ Educating Ronnie
The true story of Douglas helping his Ugandan friend receive and education is entertaining and unsentimental
Joe Douglas’ Educating Ronnie is a sometimes heart-warming true story of how he helped his Ugandan friend get an education. Unafraid of asking difficult questions about the relationship between charity and friendship, it’s more than a simple celebration of Western philanthropy.
Director Gareth Nicholls has been involved since the production’s genesis. ‘It was about three years ago that Joe told me about this boy from Uganda that he'd been paying to send to school,’ he remembers. ‘I didn't know whether he was a hero or a mug for trusting someone he'd only known for six weeks with all that money.’
For Nicholls, the stage was a natural place to tell this story. ‘I like good stories that provoke a strong response,’ he says. ‘We've had so many different reactions to Joe’s story: some audience members are in tears while others are angry with what's happened to Joe and Ronnie.’ Douglas’ story poses tough questions about how the first and third worlds collide. Far from a sentimental look at poverty, or rehearsing of platitudes, Educating Ronnie is an entertaining monologue that insists charity can be expensive and morally ambiguous.
Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh, Wed 2–Sat 5 Oct; Tron Theatre, Glasgow, Tue 15–Sat 19 Oct.