This picture is of Harrogate Theatre’s Production Team. From left to right is Stephanie Newell, Joe Walton, Maurice Stewart and Chris Yates (missing is Mark Burton-Cole, who’s on paternity leave). Spare a thought for them and their workload over the past two weeks. We have had twelve performances of two plays by six youth theatre groups in a reconfigured studio space, a devised performance piece by the Homeless Project, there’s been the physical dismantling of the main house auditorium to host a deconstructed immersive version of The Great Gatsby, which moved all around the theatre, complete with an on-stage working bar and now we have to re-set the building in anticipation of our Rep season, which is just the small matter of three plays, in three weeks with one cast. I would say… ‘and breathe’, but there just isn’t time.
There are so many unsung heroes at Harrogate Theatre, it’s difficult to know where to start after the white-knuckle ride that has been July. For every single person on stage there are another ten running around elsewhere trying to make it happen and all look effortless. Hectic schedules are not unusual, such is the nature of our artistic programme across four auditoria that can host up to 450 performances a year. I have nothing but admiration for our production team led by Maurice who always garners praise from visiting companies. They are simply ‘on it’ and ready for the good, the bad and the ugly. Getting in, getting out, rigging, building, accommodating, creating and problem solving. Sometimes right through the night. The magic comes together onstage thanks to these five offstage.
What about the plays? Upstairs in the Studio we had These Bridges by Phoebe Eclair-Powell and Dark Age by Richard Hurford. Two brilliant pieces specifically written for young people that forecast a dysfunctional future that will have to be resolved by the next generation. This was such a clever coupling by our education team of Hannah Draper and Lizzy Whynes. Eclair-Powell writes about her home city of London and imagines a community divided by politics and water. As the Thames bursts its banks, the North and the South become separated, myths abound about ‘the other side’ and a group of teenagers decide to set about creating unity. There are huge resonances with Dark Age by Yorkshire based Richard Hurford that similarly sees a disintegration of infrastructure, in a world where the power supply has run out and electricity has likewise become a myth. Both pieces are about conflict, climate change, prejudice and working together. Perfect for our six groups to learn skills and explore pertinent themes. They sound a little intense but there was plenty of humour present and excellent production values as well.
And so, to the beautifully written, adapted and performed Gatsby by the Guild of Misrule. It was an exhilarating onslaught, from start to finish, of pure sensual interactive delight. Theatre at its most engaging, as our stunning building became one of the characters with its own faded sartorial elegance and irresistible mischief. Thank you to all those that came along so stunningly dressed, armed with dancing shoes and made it a two week-long party that has left us all spiritually hungover.
Everyone connected with the theatre deserves a mention, this was a spectacular team effort from production, the workshop, communications, programming, box office, education, finance, all our volunteers, operations and in particular the front of house and bar teams.
“So we beat on, boats against the current…” Make sure you’ve got your tickets for the Rep season, 27 August - 14 September.
First published 25th July in the Harrogate Advertiser.