'Tarantino-esque' jewellery heist drama for Harrogate Theatre

Harrogate Theatre's chief executive, playwright David Bown.
Harrogate Theatre's chief executive, playwright David Bown.

A couple of armed men desperate to change their lives walk into a jewellery shop, terrorise the staff and make off with the loot.

This is the central scene of a thrilling new play set to be premiered in Harrogate Theatre next month.

Already described as a cross between “Reservoir Dogs and David Mamet”, Loaded in Harrogate is the possibly the most ‘Harrogate’ play ever to be performed at the theatre in its 116-year history.

Telling the story of an extraordinary moment in the lives of two ordinary local mechanics and their girlfriends, the new production is full of references to the town, is set mostly in the town and has a backdrop of film footage shot in the town.

A co-production with the Sheffield-based Reform Theatre Company, even its soundtrack will feature music by two local rock bands Birdman Rallies and Black Ocean, picked with the help of the Harrogate Advertiser Series.

In fact, as its writer David Bown, explains, its early origins lie far from the town.

Set to enjoy a lengthy run in Harrogate Theatre’s main auditorium in March, the first version of the play was first performed at The Edinburgh Fringe in 1999 under the name Loaded.

Two years ago the same show won rave reviews during its London run from the likes of The Guardian who hailed it as a cross between Quentin Tarantino and Laurel and Hardy!

David, 53, married with a 13-year-old son, said: “The play was actually inspired by something which happened to my friend’s father before I even moved to Harrogate.

“Originally, I set it in Sheffield, which is the version that toured the north and was revived in London.

“But I’ve always thought its main themes had a lot of relevance to Harrogate. I’m very excited to be revisiting the text from a Harrogate perspective.”

If Loaded in Harrogate means a lot to Harrogate Theatre, it also means a lot to David himself.

He said: The perception of Harrogate from the outside is one of wealth and Bettys and a spa town but you don’t have to walk very far to see there is another side to the town.

“The juxtaposition of wealth and relative poverty is very pronounced in Harrogate. “

Most of us remember the wave of jewellery shop robberies in Harrogate town centre in recent years.

Statistics show that a quarter of crimes committed in North Yorkshire are committed by outsiders who cross the border in pursuit of the honey pot that the town is often regarded as.

At one point David, whose own influences include modern classics Samuel Beckett, Harold Pinter, Steven Berkoff and David Mamet and more recent writers such as Lucy Prebble, Jez Butterworth and April De Angelis, briefly considered setting the play in a real Harrogate jewellers.

Butthe reality turned out to be worse than the fiction.

David said: “It didn’t feel right to use real incidents of armed robberies in Harrogate jewellers.

“These were very very traumatic events for the shop staff. The trauma is too real and too raw.”

David was also keen to emphasise the script’s local focus by giving over part of the play’s soundtrack to two local bands - the quirky and inventive The Birdman Rallies and alt-rock outfit Black Ocean, both recommended by the Harrogate Advertiser’s Graham Chalmers.

At the end of the day, David Bown believes watching Loaded in Harrogate should provide an entertaining experience above all.

“I’ve been overwhelmed by how well the play was received in the past and the new version has a great cast and a great team behind it.

“It should be fun for audiences to see if they can spot Harrogate references in the script and the videos. Great drama consists of putting great comedy and great tragedy together and I hope that’s what we’ve done.”