Review: Harrogate Theatre's amazing Our Gate show offers rollicking political adventure in real locations

How was Harrogate Theatre’s "most ambitious project in its 121-year history"? The Harrogate Advertiser's Graham Chalmers was there on launch night to join the audience at Our Gate.

By Graham Chalmers
Thursday, 26th August 2021, 10:18 am
A scene from Harrogate Theatre's Our Gate production. (Picture taken inside Wesley Centre by Meg Terzza)
A scene from Harrogate Theatre's Our Gate production. (Picture taken inside Wesley Centre by Meg Terzza)

‘Our Gate’ launched on Tuesday night and more than lived up to its advance billing as one of Harrogate Theatre’s most ambitious projects in its 121-year history.

Supported by the Arts Council and Harrogate Borough Council, forget the complexities of staging an ‘immersive’ community production across multiple locations with a large, mostly non-professional cast, this provocative, witty and moving show from the pen of Harrogate writer Rachael Halliwell is simply a rollicking good night out.

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An epic play that puts the audience in the story and the story in the audience, weaving the separate strands of a politically-charged exploration of a fictional spa water pipeline plan and some of the most divisive issues in modern-day Harrogate could have risked ending up as hard work.

Instead, thanks to the impressively nuanced but fun nature of Halliwell’s script, Amie Burns Walker’s direction and Caitlin Mawhinney’s sets and costume designs and some fab music, Our Gate is as entertaining as it is thought-provoking, inspired by recent controversial issues in the town's life without turning into a lecture at any point.

For the audience, much of the fun comes from being allowed to contribute to the twists and turns of the narrative as it unfolds, that and the joy of being part of an energy-packed show moving from place to place in the centre of Harrogate in an artistic reclaiming of the town's streets.

At its best amid the flow of scene-shifting, often dramatic events, Our Gate not only captures the feel of the town which spawned it, it recreates the messy nature of democracy in these occasionally bewildering times.

Whether the end result of such a superb effort by co-producers Porl Cooper and Rachael Halliwell serves to soothe the town’s divisions in an era when reality so often outstrips fiction is another question.

But ‘Our Gate’, which runs until this Sunday, August 29, is simply a must-see experience.

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