The Harrogate Theatre column with David Bown

Paper Birds will perform Mobile in a caravan outside Hall A down at the Convention Centre.
Paper Birds will perform Mobile in a caravan outside Hall A down at the Convention Centre.

I’ve been working at Harrogate Theatre for nearly 14 years now and I can honestly say that there has never been a better atmosphere for a play in all that time, than there was for the last night of Rita, Sue and Bob Too.

It started in the streets as you walked along Oxford Street – there was a real buzz in the air. The bars were four deep once in the building and the noise level was quite exhilarating.

These were not all our regular theatre-goers, but, they knew exactly what they were letting themselves in for and had come for a party. And what a party it was. Right from the very first daring scene of the three main characters graphic antics in the car – to the poignancy of the final tableau.

There was a real connection between the actors on stage and the audience watching that I have rarely experienced. I’d like to thank the remarkable cast and crew for a wonderful week. The playwright, Andrea Dunbar, who is no longer with us, wasn’t trying to shock or be controversial with this play, in my opinion, she simply looked out of the window and wrote about what she saw around her and as one audience member said to me “nowt much has changed ‘as it?”

Lastly a big thank you to all those that came to see the show and reminded all of us here about the magic of live performance and the importance of good honest storytelling.

Connor McPherson’s The Weir, which was on the week before was likewise very well received albeit in a different way. Gripping, atmospheric and cracking performances. Again it was good honest story telling.

Our ninth comedy festival was a huge success and there are no signs of its popularity waning with many of the shows selling out in all our venues across the town. However, comedy doesn’t stop in October, as James Acaster will be appearing at the theatre next month and down at the Royal Hall Russell Brand performs in December for the second time this year.

Panto is looming and it’s getting quite frantic across all departments.

Last Thursday the staff, not the cast, read the first draft.

This is an opportunity for Phil Lowe and myself, as the writers, to test drive the dialogue and the cheesey jokes. Generally speaking it’s one of the most enjoyable days in our calendar as it hails Christmas, but this year was made a little bit more exciting due to Channel 5 starting the ‘shoot’ of their Harrogate at Christmas documentary that will air mid-December.

The set for the show is currently being built by Harrogate Theatre Scenic Services, Nicola Downing is well on with the costumes and the cast arrive for their first day of rehearsal on Monday 13 November.

Get your tickets as soon as you can because they are flying out of the door.

Between now and then I highly recommend some of our studio work.

The remarkably inventive Paper Birds will perform Mobile in a caravan outside Hall A down at the Convention Centre and next to the Royal Hall. With a running time of 40 minutes there will be over 20 performances of this show about ambition and social status, between Thursday 19 October and Sunday 22 October.

At the end of the month Odd Doll will bring the ominously entitled Seaside Terror and The Book of Darkness and Light promises to be a spine chilling antidote to the pantomime in December.