Actor Marc Graham has spoken about the Middle Child Theatre Company panto which is a Dave Windass written adaptation of Aladdin and has a special guest appearance by Hull rapper Nineties Boy.
The production, which runs from 21st to 29th December at Fruit, is the fourth time the Hull-based company have teamed up with the prolific writer for their take on the mad-cap world of pantomime and has, once again, seen Middle Child parody a popular Christmas advert, with their version of a girl making friends with Nineties Boy on the moon after seeing him through her telescope. Trailer
Looking relaxed back with the company Marc is best known for working with, after his sojourn to Hull Truck Theatre to appear in the sensational Dancing Through the Shadows, you get a definite sense of contentment as he says: “Middle Child feels like home, it’s what I’m used to, where it started for me and where I get the most enjoyment.”
Laid back on two chairs oozing the professionalism the company is known for and showing the attitude of a major star he then speaks about how the Nineties Boy connection came about: “We do a quiz at Fruit every month and Nineties Boy was on the sort of panel we have for it once so we just asked him to be in it.
He carried on in his relaxed mood: “He’s playing Wishy Washy but it’s an alternative production so it’s a very Nineties Boy Wishy Washy.”
Then we got onto the subject of working with Dave Windass for a fourth year in a row so Ensemble 52 got mentioned as I asked if he could see the two companies working together in future to which the reply had a hint of the unknown: “I don’t know, maybe but I’m not sure what we’d have to offer each other, which is a shame.”
Then he told me about the challenge of doing three different types of shows every day: “It’s really hard work doing three different performances in a day.
He continued: “Christmas is secondary because you have to be really focused on what you’re doing. Panto is really fun, you might spend the rest of the year doing really deep stuff like Mercury Fur, then panto comes along and it’s really good fun but you have to work really hard to get to that, you have to know it better than every other show you do that year.
“We try and make it completely up to date so it’ll be different every time.”
The performances will also include a band on stage which will have a different name every time and Northern Lights Drama Children’s Choir will be involved as well.
Tickets are priced at £8 Adults £6 Concessions/ £10 Adult Shows Tickets and £24 Family Tickets which is for 2 Adults and 2 Children and can be purchased on the Middle Child Website or Hull Box Office Tickets
Hull-based Middle Child Theatre Company have launched their first ever extended run of a single production with a relocating of the controversial Mercury Fur which was written by Philip Ridley and originally launched in 2005 in Plymouth and then London where it was originally set.
The production is set in post-apocalyptic Hull and takes place in the abandoned unit 15 of the Lowgate Centre in Hull Old Town, on entry you are given directions to where the performance is taking place at the top of the building, you’re told to follow the butterflies (pictures on the walls) and step over the dead dog, which I didn’t see, and this is meant to immerse you in the sort of futuristic world that the production is set in.
The long walk up the stairs is slightly arduous but is a half-decent scene setter, however when you enter the room where the action is taking place you are struck by the dim light and the general almost anarchic state of the room with rubbish strewn around in a great panic and signs on the walls saying things like: If at first you don’t succeed… Call An Air-raid, Army of One, Hope Is All We Have and If You Tell A Lie Enough, It Becomes Politics.
The background music and sound is set perfectly to draw you in and immerse yourself in this unforgiving world that is being replicated.
When the action starts you’re thrown into the edge-like life of Darren (played with superb resonance by Laurie Jamieson) and his big brother Elliot (Played with admirable menace by Joshua Mayes Cooper) who survive on their wits in this new world and not much more.
The story moves at a very good pace and once it has hold of you it doesn’t let go, to the point that this 2 hours 20 minutes performance doesn’t actually include an interval, which makes it all the more immersive and entertaining because of the subject matter.
The timing of the entry, and the backstory, of Naz (Played with great relish by the great Nima Taleghani) is pitched quite well but the building of the relationship between him and Darren is done with absolutely the right amount of suggestion and, when it becomes slightly more controversial than you expect, it does seem to fit very well with the surroundings and the story, and is very well acted and very sensitively handled by the two actors.
With the clearly very disturbed Darren (who has a penchant for eating butterflies as if they’re hard drugs) being bossed by Elliot and the developing friendship with the very disturbed but also impossibly laid-back Naz you begin to genuinely care and worry about the characters and you also start to wonder what the ending will be like.
Elliot’s true love Lola (daringly well played by Laurence North) is a genuine character to remember with great control and desire.
The part of Spinx (admirably portrayed by Edward Cole) is very well developed by the three main characters even before you see him, and when he arrives he is exactly as you imagine him, as long as your imagination stretches to a man with a blonde mohican and wearing trousers, boots and a 3/4 length fur coat.
When Spinx arrives he has a surprise guest with him called The Duchess (played by the wonderful Madeleine MacMahon), whose appearance causes great panic even before she enters the room. The Duchess is quite a peripheral part in some ways, but absolutely essential and heartbreakingly lovable and understated all at the same time.
10-year-old Charlie Thompson is very strong as the character known only as The Party Piece, around whom this whole sordid party is built, along with the Party Guest (played rather convincingly by James Stanyer) and as the production moves towards its seemingly horrific ending it doesn’t wilt in any way shape or form.
The story is driven along by the power of suggestion, particularly by Spinx, which seems to suggest an awful fate for the Party Piece at the hands of the bloodthirsty Party Guest, but even as the meat hook is being sharpened a terrible twist befalls one of the other characters.
Finally, as the Party Guest gets his evil way in the bathroom, the whole audience are left sitting in what is effectively the Living Room, hearing bitter and almost sickening howls of pain, before the Party Guest is stopped by an unexpected interruption and his victim is taken from his grasp and brought back in a thoroughly horrible mess.
Eventually the production ends as it began, with Darren and Elliot arguing and clearing up the mess, but this time there’s a difference which leaves it with the sort of cliffhanger ending that the story demands.
The whole piece is expertly directed by Paul Smith, last week he told me that Middle Child “Really want to challenge audiences with this one.” That objective is very powerfully achieved in breathtaking fashion, take a bow Middle Child Theatre Company.
Hull-based Middle Child Theatre Company are taking on a formerly controversial production originally written by Philip Ridley and giving it a new location on the 10th anniversary of its original release.
The play, which premiered in 2005 at Plymouth Theatre Royal before moving on to Menier Chocolate Factory in London, has for the first time been given a northern setting in unit 15 of the abandoned Lowgate Centre in Hull City Centre.
Middle Child’s effervescent artistic director Paul Smith took time out from rehearsals to tell me about this risky production which centers around a post-apocalyptic version of Hull, as opposed to London’s East End where it was originally set.
He said: “We wanted to take on something really challenging. It’s a bit like 28 Days Later meets This Is England and Mad Max.
“We want it to be very intense and immersive, we picked the building we’re in because not being surrounded by a theatre means we have more space to work in.”
Middle Child regular actor Marc Graham is currently acting in sensational Hull Truck production of Dancing Through the Shadows so I asked if he’s being missed, Paul replied: “No not really, Marc is a fantastic actor but we’re quite a big company so we’re used to people coming in and dropping out and we’re all just thrilled for Marc to be working at Truck.”
Getting back to the matter in hand Paul says: “We really want to challenge audiences with this one, it’s the first time it’s been set away from the South of England, it’s very sight specific so it will feel very relevant to the people of Hull for sure.
“We want to stimulate debate and this piece is perfect for that because it’s so controversial and it really forces engagement and asks a lot of questions.”
Sitting in the actual venue where this challenging, multi-faceted piece of theatre is going to be happening it’s difficult to believe that come next Wednesday it’s going to double as a theatrical space, but at the same time considering the setting of the production it is also in seemingly a perfect state to communicate it as everyday items like chairs, food and drink containers and bits of paper are strewn around us and adorn the walls.
Although the performance will be set in this one room at the very top of the high building the rest of the venue is going to be made into an immersive experience so the audience will be ready for the action once it starts.
Middle Child have also brought in 10-year-old actor Charlie Thompson to play the part of the character known as ‘The Party Piece’ who is a child that has been kidnapped by central characters Elliot and Darren who, along with their gang, live on their wits in this world of degenerates who will stop at nothing to get what they want.
Tickets are £12 OTD or £10 in advance and can be purchased at https://thelittleboxoffice.com/middlechild
They are also giving offers of ‘Pay What You Want Wednesday’s or if you book in a group of 5 or more each ticket will only cost £5.
The show runs from 14 to 24 October although there are none on the 18th and 19th, there will also be a Saturday Matinee performance on the 17th.
There is a talk back with original writer Philip Ridley after the performance on Thursday 15th October and if you go and see the show on either of the Saturday’s you will get £2 off entry into Welly that night.
Hull playwright Dave Windass has spoken about the upcoming Heads Up Festival which will start on Saturday 5th September as part of Freedom Festival for the third time.
“We’ve been delighted to start Heads Up as part of Freedom Festival which has allowed us to take some really good shows to Freedom, but the festival is going to be restructured from next year,” he said.
Heads Up Festival has always been a twice yearly event every March and September but from next year it will be an annual event with it taking place in March although this doesn’t mean that Heads Up won’t have a bond with Freedom Festival.
“We hope that Heads Up Festival, as a brand, will be able to contribute theatre to Freedom Festival,” he continued.
Talking about the changes coming due to the involvement of Battersea Arts Centre coming to an end as well he said: “We’re in ongoing conversation with Battersea Arts Centre to make sure that Heads Up has got a future so it’s part of a thing called the collaborative touring network.”
Speaking next of future plans for the festival moving forward to 2017 with a purposeful look about him he says, “We’re seeing it as maybe a bit of an international festival, kind of like maybe the Edinburgh Fringe, although that’s a really big ambition.
“The festival was already going before we won City of Culture so Heads Up was a sign of Hull’s ambition, but now we want it to grow and go to other parts of Hull other than just in the city centre.”
We then spoke about what shows that are coming up in September for this Heads Up Festival and the first one that gets mentioned is one written by Mr Windass called Revolutions which has been in development for about two years and is being shown by Ensemble 52 at Freedom Festival first before moving on to a short run at Hull Truck Theatre.
“For me as one of Ensemble 52’s team, and the writer of that show, it’s very exciting to present that show as part of Freedom Festival and at Hull Truck.
“We’ve also got a show at Freedom Festival called At The End of Everything Else which is going to be in the big top and it’s powered by pedal power with the actors actually on bikes to provide the power for the show.
“Wot? No Fish!! Is also a great show that will be on at Kardomah 94 on the 2nd weekend of the Festival.
“The whole festival has some really innovative work that’s really human to the core that people will be really able to identify with.”
Talking about companies that Heads Up would like to forge partnerships with names like Middle Child, Silent Uproar and Pony Express Theatre Company are mentioned along with many others.
“Hull’s theatre ecology is really exciting and I think Heads Up is a really good umbrella for them to present their work.”