I’ve never been shy to ask questions – whether or not that’s a trait to be proud of, I don’t know. What I do know is: the act of asking has opened up Aladdin’s caves, left me dazed, moved and on a new path of discovery and curiosity.
When someone lets me into their world and their thoughts, I can’t quite explain the feeling, but it’s one of warmth, delicate connection and immense gratitude.
Through asking, inevitably comes learning: a magical double act, and an on-going charm of Northern Broadsides.
It can be related to our three staging models: Traverse, Proscenium and In the Round; our audiences in each city, our audience each show: their different energies and responses, how we reach them and they us.
At each new venue we ask and learn about acoustics, angles, dynamics, shape – for the entire week we are ‘figuring it out’, learning its contours, asking what it requires from us and for its audience.
Beyond the stage, we are curious about the people we interact and live with; we discover the challenges, delights and intimacies of a travelling company and we feel how each theatre has its own special place within its community.
A question that nags me is why theatre is still felt to be a “middle class” realm by a significant proportion of the public. I’ve heard this said too many times by members of the communities we visit for it to be mere coincidence or brushed aside as ‘one offs’. It’s a wide and nuanced topic of conversation, of course, but nevertheless, each time I hear this, I am saddened. Shakespeare’s company built a space to house all members of society and wanted to make work that would reach the many, not the few. We work tirelessly to continue his vision 400 odd years later and yet boundaries remain.
Hence, the importance of the work done by our existing theatres to reach out into the towns/cities/districts that house them must never be underestimated.
Something can be said for every space we’ve been lucky enough to visit.
Our final stop in April was to the Stephen Joseph Theatre, Scarborough.
Once an Art Deco Odeon cinema, it is now home to two theatre spaces, an outreach department and it still pays homage to its original decor and function: there was a screening of Star Trek in The Studio whilst we were there!!
Not only did the hugely generous Sir Alan Ayckbourn come and see us on opening night – he stayed for our post show too! And it was an historical moment to hear him named Director Emeritus later that week, during the theatres annual season launch.
The SJT is another example of a theatre championing connection with its community, tourism board, educational institutions and it is proudly nurturing home grown talent too: check out Chris York’s Build A Rocket ASAP! @ChrisYork19
I heard Chris speak at the SJT launch. From what I understand, he has written a piece built on the voices he grew up with – those of female relatives and influence from his home town which are being given a wider resonance via his chosen profession.
The hope of bringing this level of authenticity to our work is that the listeners are engaged no matter what their own background. Go to the theatre: learn something new, nod in recognition, weep that someone has brought your own life so vividly before you, let your heart break because you didn’t know how it felt for someone else – connect.
During our lovely stay at the Lawrence Batley Theatre, Huddersfield, I asked our company and several other gorgeous companies I’ve worked with, to share with me a favourite song, film, book, podcast – you get where this is leading…
Below is our little anthology of collected voices – I hope they open up something new or connect you to a memory: warm and familiar…
Much love from the team xx
Pet Shop Boys: So Hard
Cheshnokov: Russian Orthodox Choir singing “Gabriel Appeared”, Eternal Council
Nina Simone: I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel To Be Free
The Damned: Curtain Call
George Benson: Here Comes The Sun
The Unthanks: King Of Rome
Miles Davis: King Of Blue
Thomas Dolby: The Flat Earth
Ella Fitzgerald: The Best
The Smiths: The Queen Is Dead
Keane: Hopes and Fears
John Barry: On Her Majesty’s Secret Service
Radiohead: In Rainbows
A Winged Victory For The Sullen
Red Hot Chilli Peppers
Bach-Bukowski: You know and I know and thee know
Gerard Manley Hopkins: Binsey Poplars and Gods Grandeur
Noise A poem from the original Pooh Bear Book by A.A. Milne
Little Miss Sunshine
The Unbearable Lightness of Being
A Little Life, Hanya Yanagihara
The Lonely City, Olivia Laing
A Prayer for Owen Menay, John Irving
The God of Small Things, Arundhati Roy
Things Fall Apart, Chinua Achebe
Jane Eyre, Charlotte Bronte
Wolf Border, Sarah Hall
Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine, Gail Honeyman
The Life and Rhymes of Benjamin Zephaniah, Benjamin Zephaniah
Good Omens, Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett
The Gargoyle, Andrew Davidson
Sons and Lovers, DH Lawrence
The Hobbit, J.R.R Tolkien
Daphne Du Maurier
Criminal: True Crime
The Moth Radio Hour: true stories told live
Serial (Season 1): True Crime
Unfiltered with James O’Brien: honest interviews with people you may or may not know in public life
Desert Island Discs
Link: BBC Radio
Dear Sugars by Cheryl Strayed
Infinite Monkey Cage
Link: BBC Radio 4
Scott Galloway: Happiness and The Gorilla
Dinner For One (Freddie Frinton and May Warden, comedy sketch)
Two Soups (Julie Walters, comedy sketch)