Harrogate Theatre column: Excellent new plays have their roots in our town

Sue Mitchell in rehearsals for Loaded. Picture taken by Jude Palmer.
Sue Mitchell in rehearsals for Loaded. Picture taken by Jude Palmer.

I’m not going to beat about the bush. Please come and see Loaded in Harrogate and Parallel, two plays that are on at the theatre next week.

They are very important productions for our theatre and two stories that have their roots in the town, writes Harrogate Theatre chief executive David Bown

Both are new pieces of work, which I accept can be difficult for an audience to commit to because they are not tried and tested. But I don’t think you will be disappointed.

They are very watchable stimulating pieces of theatre, but I have to say they do have some strong language.

I am back in the rehearsal room – for Loaded in Harrogate and what joy it is. Actors are an amazing breed.

I used to actor myself but, I stopped enjoying the process, which is an odd thing to say, I know.

The task of learning lines is such an onerous one – and incidentally Loaded in Harrogate is what is regarded as a ‘hard’ learn with a lot of quick fire dialogue.

Some people are fortunate enough to be able to pick up lines instantly. I was not.

I had to literally write them out time and time again in order to absorb them.

I never really had a major disaster on stage as an actor, which of cause became an issue for me as I was convinced that the next role would see just that happen.

The actor’s mind is a mixed up place to be sometimes.

However, the great thing about being back in rehearsals is….well just that…being in rehearsal.

It’s a place where you debate and physically explore ideas.

What can be a more exhilarating and fun way to spend the day.

The four actors that are working with me on Loaded in Harrogate are Sue Mitchell, Keith Hukin, Andy Murton and Lee Bainbridge.

They are very experienced and simply quite brilliant.

They know instinctively what they are trying to achieve and are very motivated to get there, which makes my job as a director much easier.

The play itself makes references to some of the violent crime that has occurred in the town over the past three years and the action takes place in what are very recognisable locations around Harrogate. But it is predominantly a story about people and their struggles, with a bit of comedy thrown in.

Pop along – it will be an interesting and stimulating evening.

Some of the music is provided by two excellent local bands Black Ocean and Birdman Rallies and they will be playing live at the theatre after the show on Saturday, March 5.

Tickets are now on sale for Loaded in Harrogate, Parallel and the after show band party on the Saturday.

Something that is not in our What’s On guide that is coming up at the theatre in March is a production of Les Miserables performed by the pupils of Harrogate Grammar School.

I’m really excited to have the school in the building performing such a challenging piece and it takes me back to when I got involved in theatre for the first time.

It’s great for us to be working so closely with one of our leading schools, because generally speaking that’s where an interest in theatre and the arts start for all of us, with that one inspirational teacher that encourages you to have a go – many of us have been there.

I know that’s how it was for me, when I was literally dragged to an audition for a sixth form production of Romeo and Juliet at school back in 1979, as a bit of a joke by my friend. I had never been in a play before.

I read for and got the part of Lord Capulet – Juliet’s father, which was fantastic for an angst-ridden teenager as there is lots of shouting at his errant daughter.

That was it, I was hooked, largely due to my brilliant English teacher and have been fortunate enough to work in theatre ever since.

I still to this day remember all my lines for Romeo and Juliet and I feel privileged that theatre has always been very much part of my life.

So the two have sort of come together here at Harrogate, I am directing my own play professionally whilst helping to forge an opportunity for the grammar school to present their own production. It is nice symmetry and very rewarding.

What else is coming up at the theatre? I’m really looking forward to The Best of Be Festival in April with companies from Spain, Italy and Ireland.

Before that in March we have Chip Shop Chips, which is accompanied by a ‘fish supper’. What’s not to like?