Rep, glorious rep. As I write this, the final show of the 2019 HT Rep season – The 39 Steps - has just opened at Harrogate Theatre.
We launched this year’s rep back in August with John Godber’s On The Piste. We joined Chris and Alison, Bev and Dave on ‘the skiing holiday of a lifetime’ with a set complete with a working ski slope - and the show went down a storm.
I’ve had a few people asking me about HT Rep and what it actually means. It’s easy sometimes to forget that language and phrases can be industry specific and can actually be meaningless beyond that industry. If you don’t know, traditionally a repertory theatre company is a group of actors who perform a small number of plays for just a few weeks at a time. Harrogate Theatre Repertory – or HT Rep – is just that. It’s an age-old method of making theatre and was originally evolved to create a more cost-efficient model for cash-strapped arts venues.
Going back to language, my arts background is not specifically within theatre, so I am incredibly conscious of the language we use at Harrogate Theatre. When I started working there four and half years ago, there were a number of things that were talked about that I didn’t understand. We have to remember this as, while we are talking to a large proportion of already engaged theatre-goers, we also strive to engage those who are new to theatre, as well as younger people who particularly may not be familiar with traditional theatre terms. What’s more, theatre – and the arts in general – can be viewed as highbrow and so inaccessible. It’s really important we use universal, clear language or at the very least explain what something is. It’s the only way we can engage more, develop our audiences, and ensure the arts is sustainable.
All this said, I’ve loved the HT Rep shows this year. I took my 11 and 14 year olds with me to see both shows so far, and what’s great is they’ve insisted on seeing the final instalment this week. On The Piste was classic easy-watching fun. Deathtrap was our hardest sell this year – but I loved it. It was more alternative, brought up to date by a Billie Eilish soundtrack (ask the kids) and cheeky actor-to-audience Fleabag-style moments. I’m really looking forward to seeing the final show, which I’m told is a huge production for a rep show with 800 sound and lighting cues throughout one show. I’m not entirely sure what that means or looks like but I’m very much looking forward to finding out!
The 39 Steps runs until Saturday 14th September at Harrogate Theatre.
First Published in the Harrogate Advertiser Thursday 12th September