Our theatre for the next generation

Our director of panto Phil Lowe, rewrote the lyrics of Alicia Keys Empire State of Mind for a production of Dick Whittington here back in 2010, try and imagine the following words with that tune; “Harrogate’s near York, just the other side of the A1, this side is so much fun…Harrogate’s near York.” All eyes are on our colleagues across the A1, as Damian Cruden, the artistic director of York Theatre Royal recently announced he’s stepping down, as did their grand panto dame of 40 years Berwick Kaler. That’s a significant amount of change as we approach the new financial year. I first met Damian when I was working for the Arts Council back in 2000. I was appointed to undertake their appraisal, which is a bit like an Ofsted. I was seriously bowled over by the amount of work that goes into mounting a produced season, then the effort that is required to repeat it every few months and deal with the uncertainty of all the shows capturing the public’s imagination. Apart from worrying about audience numbers, there’s also choosing the shows, directing them, coping with reviews and then the scrutiny of the Board of Directors. So, to endure that ordeal for 22 years with the success Damian has is quite remarkable. Everyone at Harrogate Theatre wishes Damian and Berwick the best of luck for the future.

Speaking of panto, Harrogate Theatre has a nomination at this year’s National Pantomime Awards. It’s for Best Principal Girl, which was played by Harriett Hare in Jack and The Beanstalk. Congratulations to Harriett and everyone involved with the show.

I casually asked our Head of Education and Deputy Chief Executive, Hannah, how she was towards the end of last week and she replied; “Let’s see… 11 tours, an open day attended by 300, 228 children from two primary schools engaged in sound and light demonstrations on the main stage, the launch of 2019 Young Reviewers scheme, alongside a normal week of working in 4 primary schools with 80 children in after-school drama clubs, not to mention the usual twelve youth theatre classes for over 150 children… so busy but, OK thanks.” That was me told. Harrogate Theatre’s education department run by Hannah Draper and Lizzy Whynes goes from strength to strength and really does capture the hearts and minds of young people throughout the district. 

The Education team work quite closely with Porl Cooper who programmes the studio season. Between them they create a tremendously engaging context for young people to appreciate the performing arts. The whole of last week was a perfect example with a range of activity lead by Hannah and then Thursday evening witnessed the presentation of two very different shows, In Other Words and Woman-Wise. Both pieces explored, in contrasting but equally expressive ways, issues of mental health and confidence. If you haven’t already, I strongly urge that you check out the studio season put together by Porl as we head towards spring. Also, over half-term and Easter there are some very entertaining popular shows for younger children, so give the whole family a treat and pay us a visit. And, if you are aged between 5-18 and have an interest in performing, why not have a look at our workshop programme? Even come along and try out a session. Details are on our website or contact Hannah at hannah.draper@harrogatetheatre.co.uk.

Lastly, if you’ve never seen the modern classic that is Bouncers by John Godber, you really should. And why not remind yourself of the genius of Hancock’s Half Hour? Both delights are with us next month.