NEXT week will be full steam ahead for York's new theatre company, Leeman and Stephenson Productions.

Formed by two luminaries of the York theatre scene, Rory Mulvihill and Ian Giles, the company is so named because they played George Leeman and George Stephenson respectively in Mike Kenny and Bridget Foreman's community play, In Fog And Falling Snow, at the National Railway Museum in July 2015.

"When we decided to set up a production company to do this play, Leeman and Stephenson were a label to hang the company on, and for two reasonably well-known York actors, even if people don't know that arcane fact about us playing the two railwaymen, people in York will know the names Leeman and Stephenson," says Ian.

Artistic director Giles and associate director Mulvihill have picked Harold Pinter's last full-length play, No Man's Land, for their inaugural production in the John Cooper Studio Theatre @41Monkgate, York, from Tuesday to Saturday.

Premiered by the National Theatre at the Old Vic, London, in a 1975 production that starred Sir John Gielgud and Sir Ralph Richardson under Sir Peter Hall's direction, Pinter's typically enigmatic play is set in the sitting room of an affluent Hampstead house one summer evening in 1975.

Having met for the first time that day, successful man of letters Hirst (Mulvihill) and failed poet Spooner (Giles) retire to Hirst’s comfortable North London home for a nightcap. "As a past that they share unravels, we wonder if they really do know each other or whether they're just performing an elaborate and sometimes hilarious charade," says Rory.

"The comedy and the ambiguity intensify with the arrival of Foster and Briggs: are they Hirst’s staff or his captors? All four inhabit a no man’s land between past and present, imagination and reality."

Looking forward to Leeman and Stephenson's debut, Ian says: "This is a very exciting project for us and we're delighted to have Neil Wood and Adam Sowter on board for this first ever venture, playing Foster and Briggs."

Giles and Mulvihill were drawn to No Man's Land by the prospect of playing "stonking roles for older actors, even if it is harder to learn your lines as you get older," says Ian. "Pinter stipulated that Hirst and Spooner should be played by men in their sixties."

Mulvihill and Giles, who saw the 1975 premiere, are following in the footsteps of not only Gielgud's Spooner and Richardson's Hirst, but also Sir Ian McKellen's Spooner and Sir Patrick Stewart's Hirst in the last major revival at the Wyndham's Theatre, London, in 2017.

No pressure there, then, Ian! "That's one way of putting it, Hubris is another," he says. "I've always liked the play, and once I got to the age to do it and met Rory and we acted in plays together, I thought, 'let's have a go at this'.

York Press: No Man's Land

Ian Giles, as Spooner, rehearsing for Leeman and Stephenson Productions' debut show. Picture: Chris Mackins

 "What's been great in rehearsals is that we've been finding the humour in it, and that's not the same as playing for laughs."

Rory adds: "I hope our audiences aren't so reverential of Pinter that they feel they can't laugh. It's both really funny and horrible at the same time."

As ever, pauses and silences will play their part in a Pinter play. "A pause has to be three seconds, silence, five seconds, and how do we know this?" asks Rory. "Because Sir Peter Hall says so, and he was the original director.

"But in every pause, in every silence, something is happening, some development is going on, and it's incumbent on the actors to show that."

Ian adds: "All the pauses and silences are in Pinter's text, and they're there to give structure and rhythm to the dialogue."

Analysing the relationship of Hirst and Spooner, Ian says: "It's a simple dramatic situation: one bloke's got something and the other wants to take it away from him, which is a typical Pinter plot."

So who is in No Man's Land in that scenario? "In a way it doesn't matter if they're both in No Man's Land or not," says Rory. "Certainly it's set in limbo."

"What differentiates No Man's Land from Samuel Beckett's Endgame is that Endgame is set in a post-apocalyptic limbo; Pinter's limbo is a stiff-upper-lip 1975 limbo," says Ian.

"It seems fairly clear that Hirst is close to death, but he's just further down the road that Spooner will soon be travelling on, so though there's a success/failure contrast, there are similarities too – and they're both heavy drinkers.

"Ultimately it's like an abstract painting: people will take different things from it. Just as Hirst and Spooner tell different stories, so people's interpretations will vary."

Next up, Giles and Mulvihill are contemplating mounting two more classic plays, Joe Orton's What The Butler Saw and Samuel Beckett's Waiting For Godot. "We want to do plays with small casts but a big impact," says Rory.

No Man's Land, Leeman & Stephenson Productions, John Cooper Studio @41 Monkgate, York, June 4 to 8, 7.30pm and 4.30pm Saturday matinee. Box office: 01904 623568 or at