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An introduction to directing, with Fiona Hope

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Fiona Hope took part in our RTYDS Introduction to Directing programme earlier this year and recently joined our board. Over the past few weeks she has also sat in on rehearsals for our new production, The Canary and the Crow. Here’s what she learned from those experiences. 

The Regional Theatre Young Directors Scheme (RTYDS) is a programme that creates opportunities for people to learn new skills and gain real life experience to aid their journey in becoming a theatre director. I recently took part in the Introduction to Directing Course with Paul Smith, the artistic director of Middle Child. 

During the course, Paul shared with us his processes when directing a show, right from the moment the script is received. We discussed the importance of researching the themes of the play and getting to know the script inside out. We were also given tools and exercises that can be used in the rehearsal room and given the opportunity to try them out with professional actors. At the end of the process each person on the course had the experience of directing a 15 minute scene that was performed by professional actors in a public showing. 

An insight to the academic and practical side of directing was most definitely an experience I will value and use in the future, but the most important lesson from the week came after the discussion about ‘what makes a great director’ I was the youngest person in the room and before RTYDS I found it difficult to voice my opinions, particularly to groups of people older than me. I used to think authority and assertiveness were the key qualities to a director, neither of which I possess, but Paul proved to me that preparation, a clear vision and kindness are what make a great director.

Other words that the professional actor working in the room with us chose to describe a director included; approachable, honest, calm, supportive, adaptive and passionate. Paul didn’t tell us how to be a good director but he showed us how he does it and his rehearsal rooms are so lovely. 

I have also been lucky enough to be able to sit in the rehearsals of The Canary and the Crow and gain first hand experience of how a rehearsal room is run. This was my first time being in a professional rehearsal room from the start of the process and I began learning so much from day one. It was clear to me that wellbeing and communication is important to the company as well as creating an incredible piece of theatre. 

On the first day it was discussed what we were trying to achieve by creating this show, which is something I have never previously considered. I used to think we make theatre because it’s fun, but what is theatre without an audience? Why do they need to see it? And why do we need to make it? Once this is established, everyone in the room has the same goal, which allows for easy collaboration and creation. 

It has been incredible to watch how an artistic director, a musical director and a movement director all work together to contribute to the same end goal and the techniques the use to get the best out of the performers. Right from the start I noticed techniques that I learnt on RTYDS being implemented in a ‘real life’ setting and all the cogs started to fall into place for me about how a director brings a project together. 

The four week long rehearsal process has now come to an end, with the show about to go into tech before it previews at Hull Truck Theatre and Latitude Festival this week, and I was learning new techniques and skills right to the last day. It always seems difficult to understand anything until you’re thrown into that setting and I am unbelievably thankful for the lessons Middle Child have taught me.

Rozzy, Danielle and Matt

The Middle Child team has expanded

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Rozzy, Danielle and Matt

Rozzy Knox, Danielle Harris and Matthew May. Not pictured: Clare Storton. 

The Middle Child team has expanded and also appointed two maternity cover positions.
Rozzy Knox has started as maternity cover for executive director, Lindsey Alvis. 
Rozzy joins Middle Child after spending the last two years with the London Theatre Company, firstly as a production assistant then assistant producer. She was part of the inaugural team founding the Bridge Theatre led by Nick Starr and Nicholas Hytner; working on productions such as Alan Bennett’s Allelujah! and immersive re-imaginings of Julius Caesar and A Midsummer Night’s Dream.
Previously, Rozzy worked for the finance teams for Sonia Friedman Productions and the Ambassador Theatre Group. She’s a proud alumni of Birkbeck’s Business School and the University of Warwick. When not working, you’ll find Rozzy listening to a lot of pop music, and as many food-related podcasts as she can find.
Danielle Harris has started as production manager and co-ordinator (maternity cover) for general and production manager, Emily Anderton. 
Danielle studied a BA (Hons) in Drama and Theatre Practice at the University of Hull, graduating in 2017 with the highest first class qualification of her year. While at University, Danielle volunteered as an Assistant Facilitator for Hull Truck Theatre and was a Venue Stage Manager for various theatre festivals, including Assemble Fest and the National Student Drama Festival, where she received an award for Outstanding Contribution to the Technical Team (2016).
Matthew May has joined as artistic associate, working in the rehearsal room with artistic director Paul Smith and on engagement and outreach projects with young people in Hull. 
Matthew is a founding member of Middle Child and has performed in Ten Storey Love Song, Modern Life Is Rubbish and Saturday Night & Sunday Morning. He has also performed in Silent Uproar’s Pig. Most recently he was the assistant director and dramaturg on Us Against Whatever.
Clare Storton has also joined as a part-time finance assistant, working with Middle Child for one day a week. Clare has worked in the finance sector for 15 years and has worked with Hull Truck Theatre for five years in the finance team, where she now manages all payroll and HR areas.

Find your voice as a critic

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Do you like to think critically about theatre and wider performance and start a conversation about what you’ve seen and experienced? Then our New Critics Programme, back for 2019, could be for you.

The programme features free half-day workshops with three of the UK’s most widely-read critics, plus funding to see and review work in Hull and the wider region, sharing criticism on the Hot Potato website.

Workshops run from Monday 15 July to Wednesday 17 July with Lyn Gardner, theatre writer for The Stage and reviewer for Stagedoor UK, Natasha Tripney, reviews editor at The Stage, and Alice Saville, reviewer for Time Out and editor of Exeunt Magazine.

We are especially interested in new forms of criticism and would love to see applications from people who use video and podcasting, as well as the written word.

How to apply

To apply simply send a review of something, anything, either published or unpublished, alongside a little detail about yourself and why you’d like to participate to reverb@middlechildtheatre.co.uk.

Any of this can be in the form of video or audio, as well as text. You can also arrange to come and speak with us face-to-face, if this is easier for you, although we would still like to see an example of your criticism.

Applications close at 10am on Monday 1 July.

Two new faces join the Middle Child board

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Middle Child this week welcomes two new members to our board.

Fiona Hope is a first year undergraduate student at the University of Hull, studying Drama and Theatre Practice. She also completed a Performing Arts diploma and performed in an Edinburgh Fringe Festival Show before starting at the University last September.

Brought up in Beverley, Fiona has been involved in local theatre from a young age, working closely with a few local companies, including Middle Child and She Productions. She recently participated in the RTYDS Introduction to Directing course with Middle Child and has hopes to start up her own theatre company in Hull, in the future.

John R. Wilkinson is the tenth recipient of the Genesis Future Directors Award at the Young Vic.  He is a text-based director living between York and Leeds, currently Artistic Associate at York Theatre Royal.  His credits include: Talking Heads (Leeds Playhouse, co-directed with James Brining and Amy Leach), Winter (Young Vic) and Can’t Stand Up For Falling Down (York Theatre Royal).

He was on the Steering Group for IETM Hull 2019 and is currently undertaking research into new work and touring companies as part of Arts Council England’s Developing Your Creative Practice.

They join current board members Martin Green CBE, Sharon Darley, Jane Fallowfield, Meg Miszczuk, Aysha Powell and David Watson.

Middle Child supporting #HullTakeover companies to head to Edinburgh Fringe

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The Hull Takeover companies. Photo by Thomas Arran.

This summer, Hull is heading back to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival as Absolutely Cultured’s Hull Independent Producer Initiative, in partnership with Middle Child, supported by Hull Truck Theatre and Back to Ours, support shows by five, highly acclaimed and exciting theatre companies from Hull.

The Hull Independent Producers Initiative supports and develops Hull’s performing arts sector through training and mentoring, along with championing emerging theatre companies living and working in the city.

Taking place from 2 to 26 August, the Edinburgh Festival Fringe will once again see a Hull Takeover as Hull-based theatre companies The Herd, Middle Child, The Roaring Girls, Just Club and international acrobats Casus Circus, commissioned by Back to Ours take to the stage to show the world what Hull is made of.

Support at the Fringe

Three of the visiting companies – The Herd, Just Club and The Roaring Girls – will receive financial support from Absolutely Cultured.

In addition all companies will benefit from in-kind support including PR and marketing from Absolutely Cultured as well as wellbeing support from Middle Child.

Middle Child artistic director Paul Smith, said: “The Fringe has played a huge role in raising the profile of Middle Child by putting a company from Hull in front of audiences, critics and producers from further afield, no more so than in 2017, when we enjoyed huge success with All We Ever Wanted Was Everything, as part of the first Hull Takeover.

“To be able to help a new wave of Hull-based companies in 2019 to follow suit, with particular support for wellbeing and mental health at the Fringe, really excites us.”

The Herd, Middle Child, Roaring Girls, and Just Club will also be supported by Hull Truck Theatre to preview their shows as part of their ‘Grow’ season and will benefit from the peer support they can provide each other.

Both Middle Child and Casus will be able to offer the benefit of their previous successful experiences at Edinburgh fringe to the other companies in the Takeover programme.

This will be the second Hull Takeover at the Edinburgh Fringe following the success in 2017, where the Hull-based companies scooped accolades and received praise across the national media.

It was here that Hull theatre company Silent Uproar performed their show A Super Happy Story (About Feeling Super Sad), which has gone on to receive rave reviews everywhere it has performed on its current tour, and Middle Child sold out the Paines Plough Roundabout at Summerhall with the multi-award winning All We Ever Wanted Was Everything, which later transferred to the Bush Theatre in London.

Five unmissable shows

The Canary and the Crow

The return of the Hull Takeover sees Hull’s award-winning theatre company Middle Child return to the Paines Plough Roundabout at Summerhall to present their new lyrical, semi-autobiographical piece, The Canary and the Crow.

Written and performed by Daniel Ward, with music by Prez 96 and James Frewer, this grime and hip-hop inspired gig theatre performance is about the journey of a working-class black kid who is accepted to a prestigious grammar school.

Original live music and theatre combine to tell a story of the struggle between a new environment that doesn’t accept you and an old one that has no opportunity.

31 July – 25 August, 7.50pm, Paines Plough Roundabout at Summerhall

Standing Too Close on Our Own in the Dark

Formed by University of Hull graduates, founding members and best mates, Jamie Nowell, Matthew Collins and Jake Marsden, Just Club is a new theatre company established in Hull in 2018.

The Hull Takeover will see the company take their first ever show, Standing Too Close on Our Own in the Dark, to the Paines Plough Roundabout at Summerhall for one night only.

Standing Too Close on Our Own in the Dark was supported by Middle Child’s First Show Fund.

7 August, 10.30pm, Paines Plough Roundabout at Summerhall

Slime

Perfectly pitched to engage the youngest of audiences, The Herd will perform Slime, the story of a slug, a caterpillar and the quest for a leaf.

This squishy, squelchy, hilarious play for two to five-year-olds is a unique, accessible theatrical experience with immersive and colourful play for the very young.

2-24 August, Edinburgh Central Library, 11.15am

Beach Body Ready

The Roaring Girls create work that is fierce, feminist and fun. They will take their radically and riotously joyful new show Beach Body Ready, to this year’s Fringe, defiantly championing body positivity and sticking two fingers up at how the media says you should look.

This is The Roaring Girls Fringe debut and Beach Body Ready is also supported by Pleasance Futures.

31 July – 26 August, 1.10pm, Pleasance Courtyard Above

The Herd and The Roaring Girls are Supported Companies at Hull Truck Theatre and The Herd are a Hull Libraries’ Associate Theatre Company.

DNA

Originating from Brisbane, Australia, Casus Circus will take its Back to Ours co-commissioned DNA to the festival.

Casus is recognised as a leader in contemporary circus on the international stage, and DNA is a show of physical theatre in which the acrobats explore, wrestle and nurture their real-life stories.

1-25 August, 3.15pm, Palais du Variete, George Square Gardens

The Edinburgh Fringe takes place from 2 August until 26 August 2019, but Hull audiences will have a chance to see previews of four of the shows (Slime, Beach Body Ready, Standing Too Close On Our Own In The Dark and The Canary and the Crow) at Hull Truck Theatre between 13-17 July as part of the theatre’s Grow Artist Development Season.

For further information about the takeover visit absolutelycultured.co.uk.      

The Canary and the Crow

The Canary and the Crow heads to Edinburgh Fringe

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The Canary and the Crow

Artwork by Chrome Waves

Middle Child will once again return to the Paines Plough Roundabout at Summerhall this summer with a new show for the Edinburgh Fringe.

The Canary and the Crow is grime and hip hop-inspired gig theatre about a working-class black kid who’s accepted to a prestigious grammar school.

Written by Daniel Ward with music by Prez 96 and James Frewer, this lyrical, semi-autobiographical show mixes original live music and theatre to to tell a story of the struggle between a new environment that doesn’t accept you and an old one that has no opportunity.

Middle Child performed at the Roundabout last year with One Life Stand and also returned for a second year with All We Ever Wanted Was Everything, after a sell out, award-winning run there in 2017.

The Canary and the Crow runs at the Roundabout from 31 July to 25 August, following previews at Hull Truck There from the 16-17 July and at Latitude Festival on the 19 July.

See our listing for more details on all of our performances of this new production and to book tickets.

Free theatre marketing workshop

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Do target audiences keep you up at night? Rather learn Klingon than craft a tweet? Then our Theatre Marketing Workshop is for you: a quickstart guide to promoting your work, from defining your target audience and developing your brand to creating content and approaching the press.

This free introductory workshop, on Wednesday 29 May, is aimed at Hull-based companies and individuals who find themselves tasked with reaching an audience, but who don’t have a background in marketing or PR.

More details…

Vacancy: Finance Assistant

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After a successful first 12 months as a new Arts Council England National Portfolio Organisation, we are looking to expand our core team with the appointment of a freelance Finance Assistant.

Reporting to and working closely with the Executive Director  and General and Production Manager, the Finance Assistant will ensure the smooth and efficient running of the Middle Child office, developing and maintaining finance systems and procedures that ensure book keeping is accurate, up to date and well managed.

We expect to appoint somebody with experience of accounting platforms, such as Quickbooks, with a high level of numeracy and attention to detail and we welcome applications from people who have never worked in the arts before but who have an interest in theatre and culture.

For more details about the role and how to apply download the recruitment pack.

Applications close on Monday 6 May.

Vacancy: Executive Director (Maternity Cover)

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After a successful first 12 months as a new Arts Council England National Portfolio Organisation, we are looking for maternity cover for our Executive Director position for nine months.

Reporting to and working closely with the Artistic Director and CEO, the Executive Director leads a team including the General and Production Manager, Audience Development Manager and Finance Assistant.

The Executive Director (Maternity Cover) will provide strong, inspirational and high-profile leadership to enable Middle Child to achieve its artistic and strategic objectives.

We expect to appoint somebody with a passion and commitment to creating world class theatre from our home in Hull, with hands-on experience of producing and, ideally, of working within a building or small to mid-scale theatre company.

For more details, including the full job description, person specification and employment terms, see the job listing.

Applications close on Monday 29 April 2019.

Us Against Whatever - Adam and Edyta

Hull’s Polish community to see itself on stage for the first time with Us Against Whatever

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Us Against Whatever - Adam and Edyta

Us Against Whatever, Middle Child’s electrifying production will open at Hull Truck Theatre this Wednesday, 27 March.

Us Against Whatever will be the first time that Hull’s Polish community has seen itself in the theatre, with two Polish performers taking centre stage in a cabaret about what it means to call Hull home.

The story follows the lives of two women in Hull over eight years, leading to their coming together in a karaoke bar on the night of the EU referendum in 2016.

Audiences will also be able to sign up to sing karaoke themselves on the famous Hull Truck stage during the interval, as well as singalong to original songs throughout the show.

One of the characters is Anna, a Polish woman from Masuria, played by Polish actor Edyta Budnik (Killing Eve, BBC Three). Edyta is joined on stage by Adam Hadi (Warsaw Film School), who will star as Anna’s brother Michal. Adam also directed the movement in the show, bringing a touch of European flair to the choreography.

Hull writer Maureen Lennon wrote the script in collaboration with Polish theatre maker Nastazja Somers, while the National Theatre, British Council and Polish Cultural Institute also supported the production, adding to the international links in a show that comes at a momentous time in UK history.

Us Against Whatever is presented in association with Hull Truck Theatre and Liverpool Everyman & Playhouse. The production will run at Hull Truck Theatre until Wednesday 3 April. 

Adam Hadi and Edyta Budnik in Us Against Whatever.
Photo by Sam Taylor.

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