Why We’re Bringing Mercury Fur to Hull

By 6 October 2015Uncategorised
“The purpose of art is to throw us back into life with more passion” – FRANCIS BACON

At the time of writing we are two weeks into rehearsals for our 10th Anniversary production of Philip Ridley’s Mercury Fur, taking place in an abandoned space on Lowgate and being relocated to Hull. It has been two and a half years since we at Middle Child produced an already existing text (Amanda Whittington’s brilliant adaptation of Sillitoe’s ‘Saturday Night & Sunday Morning’), yet reimagining great plays remains an important part of our output. 

As previously discussed through various platforms, the question of ‘why now?’ and ‘why here?’ is central to every creative decision we make; we are an audience-centric company setting out to create bold work that is electrifying for its audience. I have never come across a playwright bolder than Philip Ridley, nor a play more electrifying than Mercury Fur. 

Despite being 10 years old this is a play which screams at a 2015 audience and interrogates our relationship to morality and compassion, love and war, violence and memory. It is a play which, despite often being hilarious, challenges its audience to confront brutal realities of the world and asks how far we would go to protect those that we love. We need look no further than recent events in Syria to find a modern relevance; front pages filled with tragedy, communities torn apart and families desperate to survive and find a new home. There are unfortunately many more examples across the globe for why this is a play for now.

Despite developing a cult following over the last decade, the play has a reputation of shocking and offending spectators due to the violent language and themes yet, as Philip asked in a Guardian interview in 2005: “Why is it that it is fine for the classic plays to discuss – even show – these things, but people are outraged when contemporary playwrights do it? If you go to see King Lear, you see a man having his eyes pulled out; in Medea, a woman slaughters her own children (…) But when you try to write about the world around us, people get upset. If I’d wrapped Mercury Fur up as a recently rediscovered Greek tragedy it would be seen as an interesting moral debate like Iphigenia, but because it is set on an east-London housing estate it is seen as being too dangerous to talk about. What does that say about the world we live in? What does it say about theatre today?”

It is this very question that attracted me to Mercury Fur and convinced me that it was the right choice to follow our previous production, Weekend Rockstars. I believe it is a duty of theatre companies like ours to interrogate the world around us, ask difficult questions and spark audiences into debates which will continue long into the night.  This play refuses to allow us to ignore the atrocities happening around us by relocating them to a world we recognise and forcing us to question what we would do to survive. 

“Despite being 10 years old this is a play which screams at a 2015 audience…”

With Mercury Fur – a play featuring the threat of cruelty to children and a Britain rife with hallucinogenic butterflies – we are producing our boldest work to date. The hope is that you will leave the show shocked, appalled and disgusted, yes, but more at the world this play is born from rather than the play itself. As Philip is keen to point out, nothing in the play is either gratuitous (most of the violence happens offstage) nor is it without basis (whilst writing Philip kept a scrapbook of news headlines from around the world, many of which influenced the play in some form). Mercury Fur is a direct, in-your-face examination of humanity and the world we live in, yet the play still manages to ooze love and is brims with a hope that together we can find a better path.  
Philip is undoubtedly one of Britain’s greatest modern playwrights and it has been an absolute delight working so closely with him on this 10th anniversary production of Mercury Fur. We are absolutely delighted that Philip will be joining us on the first Thursday performance of the run for a talkback and Q&A. This is a fantastic opportunity to hear about one of the most talked about British plays of the last ten years directly from the author, and is a night not to be missed! I’d book your tickets now to avoid disappointment.  

As ever, this production will be a unique theatrical event aided by it’s thrilling location, pop-up bar and full music score (written once again by the brilliant James Frewer).

If you’re still not sold I’ll try and give an idea what it’s ‘a bit like’…

It’s ‘a bit like’ This Is England, Utopia and Black Mirror. Mad Max, The Purge and Fight Club. It’s part horror movie, part Tarantino, part comedy and part love story. 

It’s an intense mix of Radiohead, Jon Hopkins, Bon Iver and Rage Against The Machine. It’s a shocking canvas by Jackson Pollock, Henry Fuseli, The Chapman Brothers and Murakami.

It’s Orwell and Steinbeck, Stephen King and Donna Tartt, Brett Easton Ellis and Suzanne Collins.

There are also more opportunities than ever before to see our work with little financial risk as we introduce our Pay What You Want Wednesday scheme and also offer half-price tickets to those coming in a group on any night. 

There have never been less excuses not to have a night out at the theatre!

Paul Smith
Artistic director