What is Ronnie & Johnny?
Open Theatre presents Ronnie and Johnny, a new independent sitcom and one of the first of its kind in the UK to be led by an almost exclusively neuro-diverse and/or disabled cast.
The show follows Ronnie and Johnny, two young men who share a flat, a carer and almost every other aspect of their lives you could imagine. Their latest carer Alan doesn’t quite know what he’s got himself into when he arrives at Tree Foil House, but he’s about to find out…
Ronnie and Johnny invite you into their world, if you think you can handle it? It’s filled with the mundane realities and outrageously hilarious moments of life as a disabled young adult. In all its glory.
Get ready for Ronnie and Johnny, because they’re ready for you!
The show is written by Rob Bate, a performer and ‘sit down’ comedian based in the West Midlands and draws on his and his best friend Ben Gilbert’s real-life experiences as wheelchair users.
Their friendship was forged partly through love and partly through necessity and gritted teeth after first being paired together as the ‘wheelchair users’ at school. Both Rob and Ben star in the show as lead characters.
This is Rob Bate’s debut as a TV sitcom writer. He is proud to be working in partnership with Open Theatre and to have made this series in his hometown of Birmingham. Every episode of Ronnie and Johnny is captioned. It contains adult humour and strong language, and the age guidance advice is >18.
Rob and Ben as ‘Ronnie & Johnny’ on set
Watch ‘Ronnie and Johnny’
We’ve created our very own mini-tv series on YouTube including a Christmas Special!
All 3 episodes were premiered live but you can watch them back at any time here by visiting our YouTube channel here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rNYy8UCgZIQ&list=PLb0OMJ9wecIrW5w0GOtVJqYd3OBoM1OWe
Please note that all episodes of Ronnie and Johnny are rated 18+ and are not suitable for children.
Want a preview before you watch all the episodes? Check out the trailer for Ronnie and Johnny…
The Making of ‘Ronnie and Johnny’
No one knew Rob Bate was writing a comedy series based on his own life, until one day he sent the first episode to Marlien van Liempt. The fate of their collaboration was sealed. Grace Smith joined the ambitious project as a producer. And of course, Rob’s best friend Ben, who is inspiration for the character Johnny, had to join as well.
There was a clear vision that Rob’s script needed to be realised, so the team worked together with comedian Brenda Gilhooly to develop the scripts. Charles Craggs composed the electric score, and Sean Bould became the lead (and only) filmmaker on the project. With a small Arts Council budget, the team set out to film 3 episodes.
Having worked with Lukan Smith on many projects, the team knew he would be perfect to play Alan. Rob and Ben would portray the main characters based on their real-life friendship and so the leads of the show were cast. A search began for the other roles, and it was important to Rob that the majority of the cast has a disability (visible or not visible). Open Theatre didn’t struggle to find a group of talented actors to fill the other roles.
Ronnie and Johnny was a new undertaking for Open Theatre and it came with challenges! Working on a tight schedule, under some covid restrictions, and with one camera meant that the filming process wasn’t always easy. Despite the challenges, the cast and crew were determined to make Rob’s vision come through as best as they can. His humour had to be shared with the wider world!
To find out more about the making of the show, check out our blog where we interview the writer and star of the show Rob Bate, and the director Marlien Van Liempt: https://www.
Filming on set of Ronnie & Johnny