RIANA Duce had only just finished filming dystopian drama The Good Book when the country went into lockdown.

Life changed overnight and the acting industry was immediately hard hit, with theatres closing, tours and productions cancelled and actors left out of work. Riana was just about to start work on a sci-fi musical when coronavirus restrictions brought it to a halt. Now she’s isolating with her mum at home in Greengates.

“It’s a scary time for the industry, and I was heartbroken to see venues closing down,” says Riana, who was born in Leeds and moved to Bradford aged 14. “We can’t do anything more positive than hope. There’s a lot of creativity right now, and theatres are becoming more accessible online, reaching audiences they wouldn’t normally reach. I think this situation will have taught us a lot for the future.”

One production that’s causing a stir online is The Good Book, a short film by Leeds People’s Theatre. Set in a future Leeds, it’s the story of a society that is divided between loyalists of the powerful Queen Bear and radical followers of revolutionary party Galahad. Riana stars as Avalon, a young woman caught in the middle who is desperate not to take sides. But when civil war breaks out, she must undertake a dangerous mission to rescue a precious relic - a book in Leeds Library - from destruction.

Riana says the film resonates with the current crisis. “It’s about finding something to believe in, seeing hope and what’s of value,” she says.

“Avalon is living in an authoritarian society, it’s a bit like 1984 with every move is being watched. She doesn’t know who to trust, then there’s this uprising. She is told the book might have the answer to everything. There’s no one answer, but that was what it took to get her to break out and spring into action. Before that she just doesn’t participate, she’s stuck in the middle.”

The Good Book is the first production for newly-formed Leeds People’s Theatre, created by Slung Low theatre company for large-scale professional arts projects with communities at the heart of them. The Good Book saw a cast of 150 local people performing with professional actors and creative teams.

Riana, who stars alongside Fleabag actor Angus Imrie, says: “Working with members of the local community made it authentic. They were people from Leeds, and we used Leeds locations, mainly Holbeck social club - the oldest working men’s club in the country - surrounding streets and the

city centre.”

Another significant location was the splendid Leeds Central Library. “We filmed there at night, it was very eerie,” says Riana. “It was lit beautifully, with lamps on desks. It’s a special place, it felt like a privilege to be in there when it wasn’t open to anyone else.”

Written by James Phillips, The Good Book continues his Arthurian-inspired future dystopia, which began with The White Whale performed at Leeds Dock in 2013 then Camelot, a Slung Low and Sheffield Theatres outdoor co-production in 2014, last seen as a centrepiece of Hull City of Culture 2017 programme. James also wrote BBC apocalyptic epic Flood, which won Slung Low a Royal Television Society award.

The Good Book, set 10 years on from Camelot, mixes a documentary, guerrilla style of shooting with Slung Low’s trademark flair for the explosive. Says James: “It’s an incredible privilege to make another piece of work with the brilliant Slung Low- especially in Leeds - and to have a chance to step deeper into the world we created with Camelot: The Shining City.”

Riana has enjoyed working locally: “I found acting at school, in Horsforth, and did theatre studies in York. There’s so much going on in film and theatre in places like Bradford and Leeds. People root for each other up here.”

l The Good Book is free to watch at slunglow.org/TGB