Category

Shows

Show photos from There Should Be Unicorns

By | News, Shows

Our brand new, hip hop family musical There Should Be Unicorns premiered to a sold out audience at Stage @TheDock in Hull this weekend.

The Stage described it as “a vibrant, colourful celebration of imagination”, and the inclusion of BSL-interpretation and audio description as “not just admirable – it makes its shows better”.

Hull Is This, in their review, said There Should Be Unicorns is “an absolute joy to watch” and “unapologetically optimistic and imaginative”.

The show, inspired by the work of Beats Bus founder Steve Arnott, heads on a tour of English festivals this summer, before returning to Hull in August for Freedom Festival.

Thank you to photographer Tom Arran for capturing the energy and joy of the show in the pictures below.

There Should Be Unicorns is supported by Wykeland Group, Without Walls, Freedom Festival Arts Trust, Hull City Council, Foyle Foundation and Garfield Weston.

Sitting down with Steve ‘Redeye Feenix’ Arnott

By | Blog, News, Shows

Erin Anderson sits down with Beats Bus co-founder Steve Arnott to talk about making his theatre debut in There Should Be Unicorns – and inspiring the show.

Steve Arnott in There Should Be Unicorns rehearsals

Steve Arnott bumps fists with co-star Emily Gray, in rehearsals. Photo by Tom Arran.

Perched on a couch in the corner of a small studio on the outskirts of Beverley, a beaming Steve ‘Redeye Feenix’ Arnott watches on as a group of his young mentees learn the group dance that will be included in There Should Be Unicorns, with movement director, Ryan Harston.

Steve has met most of these kids through his organisation, Beats Bus, that aims to reach out to children through the arts.

2017 was the real start for Beats Bus,” he says, explaining how the charity started. “It piloted for the freedom season [of the UK City of Culture programme], so it was a three-month trial that we actually made into an organisation in 2018.

“We teach hip hop to young people and then we mentor the young people, and we release their music on our record label.” 

Having to pull him away from dancing along with the kids from behind the studio set-up, Steve’s passion is unmistakable and the excitement for his work radiates out of him.

“We also teach them a bit of confidence building and self-esteem building, all the elements of hip hop, and also, they get to do live performances, as they’re doing now.”

It’s crystal clear from watching on that Steve and rest of the Beats Bus tutors build strong relationships to develop the creativity and craft of the young people they’re working with. 

Steve Arnott in There Should Be Unicorns rehearsals

Steve reads his script during rehearsals. Photo by Tom Arran.

For what many of us will feel like a lifetime ago – and for Steve likely several – in a pre-pandemic world Steve came up with the idea for a play that told the story of hip hop in Hull entitled ‘Hip-Hop-O-Mine’ and brought the idea to Middle Child.

“Me, Paul [Smith] and Mungo [Beaumont] met, and I just wanted to tell a story of the history of hip hop in Hull.”

This idea would eventually come to be There Should Be Unicorns, a family hip-hop musical about 11-year-old Jasmine whose dad, played by Steve, founds the Beats Bus.

Jasmine experiences bullying at the hands of those who don’t see the world with the same creativity and imagination that she and her dad do, so sets out to change their minds for the better.

“We’ve worked on it now for the last three years and it’s changed course but I’m really, really happy with the final product that we’ve got because it tells the story of hip hop, and it tells a beautiful story about family and friends.” 

Unicorns, as it is often affectionately abbreviated around the Middle Child offices, doesn’t only adapt Steve’s journey with the Beats Bus, but it also details Steve’s own health issues that almost cost him his life in 2019.

“My bowel exploded, and I had to have 7-hour surgery to save my life,” he recalled. “It was such a massive, massive shock and a trauma.”

The toll this took on Steve’s confidence and drive for performing saw him lose 18-months to a long recovery period.

“It’s probably taken me up until January this year to be physically fit enough to be able to do the play.”

In fact, it’s only due to the knock-on effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, and the postponement of There Should Be Unicorns, that Steve is able to feature at all.

“When Paul said to me we’d like you to be in the play, I said no, you know, I just physically just can’t do it.”

The mental and physical strain was too severe for Steve, whose health conditions had left him needing to be fitted with a stoma bag that would alter his life permanently.

I want it to raise awareness of the stoma, you know for people to see and it and say yeah, he’s got a stoma and he’s still acting and he’s still running around on stage. That’d be a great thing for me.”

Steve Arnott in There Should Be Unicorns rehearsals

Steve and Emily Gray embrace in rehearsals. Photo by Tom Arran.

After facing his difficulties head on, Steve has found his passion for work again.

“I didn’t realise ‘til I did Beats Bus but yeah, working to live and living to work are two different totally things. I’m in quite a good place at the moment and I’m just really looking forward to it.”

Steve and his fellow Beats Bus tutors Kobby Taylor and David Okwesia have penned many of the lyrics that will be heard when the show premieres in Hull next weekend. 

“It’s exciting but I’m nervous cause it’s the first show in a week on Saturday so I’m like okay… it’s getting very close,” Steve laughs. “I’m sure once the first one’s out the way and it all goes well, we’ll all relax, and we’ll be alright.” 

As well as taking away the core messages of kindness, family and community, Steve hopes most of all for people to have as much fun watching There Should Be Unicorns as he has had making it.

“The whole process with Middle Child has just been amazing. The people that work there are amazing and it’s always fun.”

If you’re coming along to watch, don’t forget to dress up as your own superhero!

“I can just envision everybody going mad and having fun and dancing at the end, and you know, just have loads of fun and dress up it’s just gonna be amazing.”

Steve ‘Redeye’ Arnott will be making his acting debut as Jasmine’s dad in There Should Be Unicorns premiere weekend, 7-8 May at Hull’s Stage @TheDock. 

There Should Be Unicorns will tour festivals over the summer and return to Hull for Freedom Festival in August.

Meet the cast of There Should Be Unicorns

By | Shows

Rehearsals started this week for There Should Be Unicorns, our brand new, hip hop family musical, which premieres in Hull at Stage @TheDock, 7-8 May.

Let’s meet the cast.

Beats Bus co-founder and Hull-based hip hop artist Steve Arnott makes his theatre debut as Dad.

Steve’s story, captured in the 2018 documentary A Northern Soul, was the inspiration for There Should Be Unicorns.

Founding Middle Child company member, Marc Graham, will work as Steve’s acting coach throughout the process.

Hull-based performer Emily Gray plays 11-year-old Jasmine.

Emily has previously worked with Middle Child on Out Loud: Casino.

Ryan Harston brings his dance skills to the show as school bully Hawkins.

Ryan will also be directing movement and has previously worked with Middle Child on the movement for The Canary and the Crow.

Andy McLeod stars as headteacher and panto villain, Mr English, a stickler for the rules and authority who Jasmine takes on through the power of hip hop and imagination.

Andy works across theatre, film and television.

Saskia Pay stars as the second school bully and nemesis of Jasmine, Eleanor.

Saskia is a regular content creator for BBC Sesh and has a rap series commissioned by BBC Bitesize.

The final member of the cast is Hull-based actor, musician and MC, Kobby Taylor.

Kobby is a co-founder of Beats Bus and also co-composed the music for the show alongside James Frewer.

Tickets for There Should Be Unicorns have already sold out, but it will go on tour to outdoor festivals around the UK this summer, including a return to Hull for Freedom Festival in August.

See our listings page for all tour dates.

A white woman with long dark hair, in lilac dungarees, yellow jumper, gold party hat and pink cape makes a superhero pose, against blue background with white clouds and text that says "There Should Be Unicorns"

There Should Be Unicorns to open in Hull

By | Events, News, Shows, Uncategorised
A white woman with long dark hair, in lilac dungarees, yellow jumper, gold party hat and pink cape makes a superhero pose, against blue background with white clouds and text that says

Flutter your capes and zhuzh up your rainbows – we have a new show coming to town!

There Should Be Unicorns is a hip hop family musical coming to Stage @ The Dock in Hull from 7-8 May, made in association with Beats Bus.

Join 11-year-old Jasmine on an adventure to make the world a better place, powered only by her imagination and a belief in unicorns.

Come dressed as the superhero version of yourself and help Jasmine take on the bullies, villains and ideas that shape the world around her.

There Should Be Unicorns is inspired by the story of Beats Bus co-founder, Steve Arnott, who was the subject of Sean McAllister’s 2018 documentary, A Northern Soul.

Steve stars as Jasmine’s dad, alongside Beats Bus co-founder Kobby Taylor, who you may also recognise from The Canary and the Crow and The Little Mermaid.

In the show Jasmine’s dad inspires her to rebel against the pressure to conform and put herself first as she gets ready to move to senior school.

We’d love to see families from across Hull turn out in fancy dress to support Jasmine in her quest and free face painting will be available all weekend, from Fantastic Faces.

A Black man applauds a white boy on a microphone. In the background lots of children watch.

Kobby Taylor leading a Beats Bus workshop

Free tickets, available 30 March

Free tickets have been made possible thanks to the support of Wykeland Group, Without Walls and Freedom Festival Arts Trust.

They go on-sale through the Middle Child website at 12 noon, Wednesday 30 March.

For the first time at a Middle Child show we are providing integrated audio description in all performances, alongside BSL interpretation on Sunday 8 May.

The venue also opens an hour before the show and you’re welcome to bring in food from the many independent shops and cafes around the Fruit Market.

There Should Be Unicorns premieres in Hull, before heading on a national tour of outdoor festivals, including a return to Freedom Festival, so come join us for a kick-ass opening weekend!

There Should Be Unicorns is supported by Wykeland Group, Without Walls, Freedom Festival Arts Trust, Hull City Council, Foyle Foundation and Garfield Weston.

Fantastic Faces logo

How to create a superhero version of yourself

By | Shows
A white woman with long dark hair, in lilac dungarees, yellow jumper holds a pink cape

Pick a name, choose a superpower and make a costume to light up the skies at There Should Be Unicorns in May.

There Should Be Unicorns is all about using your imagination to make the world a better place and our hero, 11-year-old Jasmine, wants to see you use yours.

In the show, Jasmine transforms into the superhero version of herself – Unicorn Girl – to take on the bullies, villains and ideas that rule her world.

Jasmine would love to see you come along, dressed as superhero versions of yourselves too.

But where to begin?

Well, Jasmine has two simple steps to follow.

Step One – Your Name

First, take the thing that you like the most -it might be an animal, or an object, or something you like doing, like climbing or cooking – and then you mix it with something you’re really good at.

Jasmine LOVES unicorns, hence why she is Unicorn Girl.

Step Two – Your Power

A unicorn’s alicorn makes them weird and not like horses – but it’s also what makes them special, because they don’t care what anyone thinks of them.

So Jasmine, as Unicorn Girl, inspires people to stop being ashamed of who they are.

What would your special superpower be?

Bonus Step – Costume

Every superhero needs a costume to disguise themselves. And look good changing the world.

Below are some videos to give you inspiration on how to make your own outfit, including capes and masks.

We’ll be capturing photographs at Stage @ The Dock, 7-8 May, so Jasmine can remember how amazing everybody looked.

We’ll also have free facepainting all weekend, from Fantastic Faces.

Let us know how you get on with your costumes and alter egos by tagging us in your photos on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.

Tickets on-sale for Out Loud at Humber Street Gallery

By | Artist Development, Events, Shows

Artwork by Ur My Type

Pay what you decide tickets are now available for a ‘scratch’ performance of a new play set in the world of northern soul.

We take over Humber Street Gallery from 24-26 March to share a lo-fi version of Casino, by Larner Wallace-Taylor, set on the dancefloor of Wigan’s most famous nightclub.

Casino follows friends Linda and Tina as they discover soul music, fashion and amphetamines, in a time of strikes and power cuts.

These short, ‘scratch’ performances will feature professional actors, but no set, props or costume.

Casino is part of Out Loud, a Middle Child and Silent Uproar programme that supports writers to stage new plays, without the stress of creating a polished show.

Pay What You Decide tickets are now on-sale, with a BSL performance on Thursday 24 March.

Plus: Soul Syndicate DJs will be spinning classic northern soul in the bar after the show, on Sat 26 March.

Headshots of the eight performers of Rapunz'ull

Meet the cast of Rapunz’ull

By | News, Panto, Shows

We swear it’s still September, but the calendar don’t lie and rehearsals for this year’s panto, Rapunz’ull, start a week today. Ye gads!

In which case, we better introduce the talented performers who will be taking to the stage at Social this Christmas, from 16-24 December.

Alice Beaumont returns to panto to play the lead role and hero with the magic hair, Rapunzel.

Alice’s previous work with Middle Child includes pantomimes, The Little Mermaid and Cinderella, as well as All We Ever Wanted Was Everything.

Jack Chamberlain will be tapping those toms and slapping those snares in musician’s corner, as well as getting up to mischief on the stage itself as Dogbreath.

Jack has appeared in numerous Middle Child Christmas shows, including as the Mirror in last year’s animated panto.

The multi-instrumentalist Alex Turner aspires to be, James Frewer will lead musical proceedings as Piano James and the show’s musical director.

Frew, as he likes to be known, has written music for Middle Child since the beginning on various shows, including All We Ever Wanted Was Everything, Us Against Whatever and The Canary and the Crow.

Marc Graham returns as Pattie Breadcake, Hull’s favourite guitar-shredding, husband-shedding panto dame.

Marc won a Stage Award for Excellence for his turn as the MC in All We Ever Wanted Was Everything and has handled more hecklers than Social has been called Fruit.

Making his panto debut under the lights at Social, as villain Mayor Gothel, is Angelo Irving.

You may recognise Angelo from his Black Boris viral videos, as well as Netflix’s Death to 2020, for which he also has a writing credit.

Angelo also reviews theatre for the likes of Exeunt and The Stage, after participating in our New Critics Programme in 2019, and also wrote for our summer cabaret, we used to be closer than this.

Anna Mitchelson joins the cast as understudy, part of our Covid-19 precautions to ensure the show can go on, ready to step-in should a performer fall ill.

Anna starred in our 2019 production of One Life Stand and also appeared in our comeback cabaret earlier this year, we used to be closer than this.

Panto regular Josie Morley stars as Ace Ladd, the Hull botanist in search of his radical roots who wants to start a revolution.

As well as appearing in countless Middle Child pantomimes, Josie also performed in our karaoke cabaret, Us Against Whatever and starred in The Roaring Girls’ Beach Body Ready.

The man whose face launched a thousand squeaks during Cinderella, Andrew Ross is the deadpan extraordinaire bar none.

Andrew will double-up stage management and clowning duties as Baron von Stagehand and has previously appeared as Pattie’s sister, Chips, in The Little Mermaid.

And joining us on Saturday 18 December as BSL interpreter for three performances, including family and late-night shows, is Dave Wycherley.

Dave has interpreted our pantomimes every year since 2017 and we are delighted to have him join us again this Christmas.

Production team

Working their wizardry behind the scenes is our amazing production team.

Natalie Young is the brains behind our set, props and costume design, bringing Hull Fair to Social, with special thanks to the University of Hull drama department for building the set.

Adam Foley is working wonders with the lights to capture the neon atmosphere of the fair on the usual modest budget.

Danielle Harris joins the rehearsal room as deputy stage manager and will run the show from the tech desk in the venue.

Paul Smith, Middle Child’s artistic director, has not only penned the script but will once again direct the show.

And finally the Middle Child core team will produce, production manage, dramaturg and market the show.

  • Tickets for Rapunz’ull are on-sale now, available from £10.50-£16.50.
A montage of headshots of the eight writers

Behind the writing – “we used to be closer than this”

By | News, Shows, Uncategorised
A montage of headshots of the eight writers

If you’ve been keeping up with us, you’ll know that we are celebrating togetherness by being back on the stage Friday 16th – Sunday 18th July with a live audience with ‘we used to be closer than this’, a cabaret of songs written by 8 talented writers from Hull and across the UK.

Not too long ago, we sent a brief to writers asking them to respond to the idea of coming together again through writing a music-led piece of writing which is celebratory, hopeful and challenging in equal measure. But what can you expect from each piece? We’ve asked our writers to tell us more about their song:

Use the arrows to scroll through all of our writer’s stories-behind-the-songs
Collage of eight headshots of the cast

Meet the cast and writers for “we used to be closer than this”

By | News, Shows

After 18 months away from the stage, the cast of we used to be closer than this have started rehearsals today, for our first in-person performance since covid-19 struck the UK.

The show, an outdoor cabaret celebrating connection and togetherness, is written by Natasha Brown, Angelo Irving, Tabby Lamb, Jay Mitra, RashDash, Leo Skilbeck, Kobby Taylor and Tom Wells, with original live music by James Frewer.

It will be performed in Queen’s Gardens from 16-18 July, as part of Absolutely Cultured’s Creative Hull festival.

The cast includes Lauren Azania, Rachel Barnes, Tommi Bryson, Jack Chamberlain, James Frewer, Marc Graham, Anna Mitchelson and Kobby Taylor, with BSL interpreter Stephanie Raper joining the company for both performances on Saturday 17 July.

The writers

A montage of headshots of the eight writers

Top, left-right: Natasha Brown, Angelo Irving, Tabby Lamb and Jay Mitra
Bottom, left-right: RashDash, Leo Skilbeck, Kobby Taylor and Tom Wells

Natasha Brown is a writer, performer, theatre maker and facilitator based in London. Her work interrogates power, identity and community. Natasha is an associate writer of Middle Child.

Angelo Irving is a writer and actor whose career started because of covid. He loves to learn and build with others and wants to be a difference maker.

Tabby Lamb is a non-binary trans femme writer whose work focuses on moments of queer joy and gender euphoria. Tabby is an associate writer of Middle Child.

Jay Mitra is a non-binary British Indian punk poet, writer and artist based in Hull and Manchester.

RashDash are about dancing, making space to be yourself, cultural change and radical pleasure.

Leo Skilbeck is the artistic director for Milk Presents. They write, direct, make short films, and run workshops and training.

Kobby Taylor is an actor, composer and youth worker, who is passionate about all three.

Tom Wells is a Hull-based playwright and associate artist of Middle Child.

The cast

Collage of eight headshots of the cast

Top, left-right: Lauren Azania, Rachel Barnes, Tommi Bryson and Jack Chamberlain
Bottom, left-right: James Frewer, Marc Graham, Anna Mitchelson and Stephanie Raper

Lauren Azania is a British-Caribbean Motown/Disco singer, actress and dancer, based in London.

Rachel Barnes has previously appeared in The Canary and the Crow and I Hate Alone for Middle Child.

Tommi Bryson is Sheffield-born-bred-and-based performer, writer, producer and facilitator; best known for her vibrant comedy music and her varied work at Sheffield’s own Crucible Theatre.

Jack Chamberlain is an actor, director, producer and co-artistic director of Brick By Brick. He has appeared in multiple pantomimes for Middle Child.

James Frewer is a composer and musical director, who has worked on multiple Middle Child shows, including The Canary and the Crow, Us Against Whatever and All We Ever Wanted Was Everything.

Marc Graham is an actor from Hull and a founding member of Middle Child. In 2017 he won The Stage Excellence Award for his performance in All We Ever Wanted Was Everything.

Anna Mitchelson is a performer from Hull who has previously appeared in One Life Stand and multiple pantomimes for Middle Child.

Stephanie Raper is a BSL interpreter from Lincolnshire who works across live music, theatre and performance.

Kobby Taylor, as well as being a writer on the show, is a performer who has previously appeared in The Canary and the Crow and The Little Mermaid for Middle Child.

we used to be closer than this is directed by Paul Smith and the production team also includes: Belle Streeton (assistant director), Natalie Young (designer), Jess Addinall and Adam Foley (lighting designers), Jay Hirst (technical stage manager) and Oliver Strong (assistant stage manager).

  • Pay what you can tickets are on sale now, through Absolutely Cultured.

Dates

Fri 16 – Sun 18 July
Queen’s Gardens, Hull
Pay What You Can

Book Tickets
Surrealist collage of two female burlesque characters sat amongst blue and turquoise flowers, butterflies and dragonflies

Middle Child return to the stage with a summer cabaret in Hull

By | Events, News, Shows
Surrealist collage of two female burlesque characters sat amongst blue and turquoise flowers, butterflies and dragonflies

After more than a year away from the stage we make our long-awaited return with a brand new cabaret, celebrating connection and togetherness, as part of Absolutely Cultured’s Creative Hull festival in July.

we used to be closer than this features songs by writers Natasha Brown, Angelo Irving, Tabby Lamb, Jay Mitra, RashDash, Leo Skilbeck, Kobby Taylor and Tom Wells, with original live music by James Frewer.

Performed outdoors under the sun in Queen’s Gardens, audiences will be seated cabaret style, around socially distanced tables of four people, with a limited capacity of 100 per show.

we used to be closer than this runs from 16-18 July and pay what you can tickets, for all performances, are now on sale through Absolutely Cultured.

Alongside our first live performance in 18 months, budding songwriters can also take part in our free Writing Songs for the Stage workshops, on Saturday 17 and Sunday 18 July, as part of the festival.

Bring along a piece of writing – be it a play, a piece of poetry, or anything in between – and work with our musicians and composers to create an original song, that will be set to live music.

  • See the Absolutely Cultured website for more information about Creative Hull.

we used to be closer than this is supported by Absolutely Cultured, Arts Council England and the Cultural Recovery Fund.

EN PL