Pride Fringe Festival, My Fair Lady - performed by Harrogate Operatic Society and Black Teeth and Brilliant Smile were all very well received by our audiences over the past two weeks and perfectly demonstrate the diversity across our stages.

The latter is based on the life of the playwright Andrea Dunbar who tragically died at the young age of 29 back in 1990. Yorkshire born, she is probably best known for her play Rita Sue and Bob Too, which was gloriously made into a film back in the 80’s. It resurfaced as a theatre tour a couple of years ago and when it visited Harrogate Theatre it drew magnificently boisterous audiences, providing one of the best atmospheres at this theatre I’ve experienced.

Dunbar’s first play, The Arbor, tells the story of her own remarkable young life and displayed such raw brilliance that The Royal Court in London, on receiving an untreated draft, immediately staged its first production, which then transferred to New York. The huge success of Rita, Sue and Bob Too soon followed. By then Dunbar had three children, was struggling with severe illness and was also battling a few demons before her untimely death at 29. What an extraordinary story hers is.

There was a very moving film of The Arbor made back in 2010. The Andrea part was played by actress Natalie Gavin, who has recently become a patron of Harrogate Theatre. The Arbor also established Natalie as a genuine talent and she has since appeared in a whole host of TV and stage work including; Shameless, Ackley Bridge and recently Gentleman Jack. Natalie also turned up as PC Tranter in the final episode of Line of Duty back in the spring. Like everyone else in the show she was revealed as a ‘bent’ copper, who was shot and wounded but survived, so I suspect she will figure prominently in series six. Hope so.

We have a ‘rich seam’ of patrons at the moment. Apart from Natalie, we are fortunate to have Davood Ghadami and Reece Dinsdale. Davood has been a major player in EastEnders for some years and had a good run in Strictly Come Dancing a couple of years ago. I’m not too sure where to start with Reece. I remember his appearance in Threads back in the early 80’s, a realistic and quite shocking dramatisation of a nuclear attack on Sheffield, where I grew up, at a time when the world was on red alert. Since then his theatre work has been across all the big ones including The National and the RSC. He’s been in some major TV dramas, as well as a stint in Coronation Street. We are looking forward to working with them all at Harrogate Theatre in the months to come.

Rep is Back! As the banners say in town. Do check out On the Piste by John Godber, Deathtrap by Ira Levin and The 39 Steps adapted Patrick Barlow from an original concept by Simon Corble and Nobby Dimon. Three plays, three weeks, great fun and a bargain if you book to see them all.

You might recognise the name Nobby Dimon, the co-creator of The 39 Steps. Nobby has successfully run North Country Theatre based in Richmond for a few decades now, but was also the Director of Harrogate Theatre’s Education Department back in the 1980’s. They are three deliciously complimentary plays, with a terrific cast and the first one up is directed by our own Phil Lowe. There’s just too much to celebrate at Harrogate Theatre.

First published in the Harrogate Advertiser on Thursday 27th June.