By Graham Chalmers
For those theatre-goers who prefer shows to offer the unusual and the exciting, Harrogate Theatre’s fifth annual 2’s Company series of pint-sized adventures will surely do the trick.
Running from Sunday, May 24 until Saturday, May 30, this annual mini-festival offers ‘up close and personal’ experiences far removed from regular shows at Harrogate Theatre’s gorgeous but traditional Victorian home.
Recently hailed by The Guardian as a “perfectly formed festival of small”, 2’s Company delights in presenting an opportunity to enjoy and engage with performers in new ways.
So try this for size in this year’s line-up:
Room will take place upstairs in the theatre’s studio with four performers and just one audience member who will be blindfolded for the duration of the show!
The Fixer has been created by Newcastle-based artist Brad McCormick and will be set in a Renault Clio car driving round Harrogate with an audience of just two people.
Somebody I Used To Know will take place in the theare’s new Hive workshop and will explore the world of Facebook and social media.
But before those barrier-busting midget gems, there will be Early Doors performed inside historic Hales Bar on Harrogate’s Crescent Road.
Being premiered this Sunday, May 24 and running until next Wednesday, May 27, this new comedy play will be presented by Not Too Tame, a company set up precisely to push boundaries.
Not Too Tame’s founder and artistic director Jimmy Fairhurst, who will be one of the performers in this traditional gas-lit bar, said: “We like our shows to be events, to have a bit more life and soul like a rock n roll gig, rather than a theatrical production.
“Although Early Doors has a normal storyline, we’ve also got our own bouncer and a real pub quiz for audience members. The show has every element of a good night out.”
Fresh from a sellout run at last year’s Edinburgh Fringe, Fairhurst’s own family background in Warrington makes him ideally suited to putting the fun into challenging people’s perceptions of what theatre can be.
Talking to me on the phone during a break from rehearsals, he said: “Until I was persuaded to be in a play in my sixth form because a lot of girls were in it, I was all set to follow my dad’s footsteps in professional rugby league for Bradford or Leeds. After that I dropped everything for the stage.
“Before I became an actor I thought theatre was just people with cravates and posh voices but it doesn’t have to be that way.”
An award-winning actor himself, Fairhurst launched Not Too Tame before he had even graduated from the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama.
The aim was simple - creating a company of artists founded on the principle of theatre for all.
“Because of my dad when I was growing up I was always in and out of all the working men’s clubs in mining towns and across the region. I realised they were real hubs of the community. In a pub you find every accent in the world.
“I wanted to set up a working class theatre company at first but it’s really about bringing new people to theatre. There’s that wonderful line from the film Saturday Night Sunday Morning - “whatever you say I am, that’s what I’m not”.
As part of that goal - and it’s something that, perhaps, Not Too Tame shares with 2’s Company as a whole, humour is vital, says Fairburn.
“Our new show is very funny, a bit Coogan-esque in places. I love playing unusual and beautiful places. If we can get a theatre audience to come to the pub, perhaps we can get a pub audience to go to the theatre.”
For tickets, visit www.harrogatetheatre.co.uk