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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

A Free Writing Response to ‘Misty’

By | Artist Development, Blog, Uncategorised

Each week as part of Recover, Restart and Reimagine, there is a set play text to read, which is then discussed at length in a session led by Middle Child’s Matthew May. During the second week of Restart the group had the spoken word play Misty by British playwright and actor Arinzé Kene to unpick and respond to. Michelle, one of the spoken word artists on the project, felt inspired to respond with this creative free writing response to the work.    

 

Misty by Arinzé Kene a creative response by Michelle Dee  

 It’s a play about race but it is not a black play 

cos the stuff that goes on is due to poverty 

and lack of opportunity it is not speaking 

about the black experience per se but the 

crisis in masculinity in the UK a lack of role 

models the scales tipped against success 

he says some things about gentrification 

fitting in adapting throughout the work 

Arinzé is told he should be changing his 

words how he couldn’t tell this story 

because it predicated a stereotype he 

tells it in patois in yardie speak dutty 

lingo in a ‘featre’ he paints a dangerous 

dynamic picture his world is full of characters 

who challenge his views like an argument 

on a social news feed echo chamber 

baiting the base scoring hit points on 

how society should think about race 

it is not Arinzé’s responsibility not to to 

offend there’s a great line maybe the best 

line page 56 ‘If the audience aint ready to 

be challenged maybe they shouldn’t come 

to the theatre…’ then there is a the Sixth 

Sense Fight Club return seats to the upright 

position moment and I’ve not mentioned the 

virus and blood cell ting I wonder how much 

struggle he really has had with the Rebecca’s 

and the Producers in this world to make  

this show happen: it begs the question.  

Two women walk and chat

Working Better Together

By | Artist Development, Blog, Uncategorised

Last week, the Recover, Restart and Reimagine group joined Steve O’Smotherly to learn about a useful tool for teams to more openly communicate about getting the best out of each other.

Most of us have worked with people who, despite all the will in the world, we feel we struggle to mesh with. I’ve worked with many teams, adapting to various working environments and systems, and I can pinpoint where it’s been a breeze or where I have had to exert a lot of energy to be at my peak. Interestingly, until listening in on Recover, Restart and Reimagine’s Four Season Profiling session, I had considered this to be a ‘me’ problem. Turns out that often where things don’t mesh can be related to the personalities in the room, and with reflection and communication, barriers can become significantly smaller. 

Four Seasons profiling encourages reflection on the impact we may have on the people around us. Based on traits and preferences at work, we fit into four different categories: Spring, Summer, Winter and Autumn. Each season has an opposite (Spring/Autumn and Winter/Summer) to how they naturally engage with the task at hand, with strengths and weaknesses in all. The model encourages a team to communicate their preferences and what they need from other seasons to get the best out of them. 

For me, the biggest lightbulb moment in this session was the concept that the better the day an individual is having, the more they lean into their season tendencies, which can naturally have a negative impact on their opposite seasons. Look at it like this: as a Spring, I am a ‘blue skies thinking’, big ideas person with an enthusiasm for new projects, problem-solving as we move, but this ‘go with the flow’ mentality is the foil of an Autumn. Autumns prefer a cautious approach, moving with purpose to avoid errors. They prepare, research and analyse, carefully planning every move until a project is complete. So if I’ve got a big idea, I’m moving existing projects and meetings around, raring to go THAT DAY on a shiny new passion project, so an Autumn is going to get hella frustrated with me. Equally, an empathetic people-oriented Summer, who prefers consensus and considering others to alleviate stress, is going to clash with an efficiency-focused Winter who wants quick and effective results – very ‘work now, feelings later’. 

Two women walk and chat

Our Recover, Restart and Reimagine group were made up of mostly Summers (9 people) with the remainder being Springs (4 people). With being only a small sample, this figures when we compare this to a typical organisation or groups of cultural leaders.

From the group, actor and writer Angelo Irving is a Summer. He had the opportunity to discuss various points with other Summers around strengths, weaknesses and preferences. The Summer group identified themselves as friendly, stable, laid back and authentic, being good sources of morale through comedy and understanding, although admitted that where they may negatively impact other seasons is resistance to getting stuck into a task and struggling to focus, finding themselves juggling a lot at once. Facilitator Steve encouraged the groups to communicate openly and honestly, giving prompt questions for each group of seasons to explore, something that comes naturally to Summers but other seasons may have had more difficulty with. 

The biggest take away from this session is that with good communication and clarity, polar opposites do not mean that there is chaos in a room when put together on a project. Rather, knowing your seasons and acknowledging your preferences can help start a preparation to better communicate an effective way of working with each other with understanding. And it works! In the past, I have been in a two-person team with an Autumn before, and as we had brilliant communication of what we both needed to be effective on the project, we played into our strengths with consideration of what we both needed from each other. 

If you’d like to explore the following season descriptions and think about which one you most identify with, then use the prompts at the bottom to think deeper into how we can better work with others. 

Spring – Is a preference for blue-skies ideas, creativity and spontaneity. A Spring is resilient under stress, being an adaptable ‘go with the flow’ personality. Seen as ‘fire starters’ they are enthusiastic about new projects and enjoy change, but certainly aren’t completer-finishers, causing other seasons stress by changing goal-posts and shifting focus often. With their passion, they are emotionally driven resourceful members of a team and offer much value through harnessing their wide network and skill base. 

Autumn – The opposite of a Spring, Autumns are evidence-based thinkers and act cautiously with purpose to avoid errors. Rarely taking things at face value (‘Don’t tell me you’re funny, make me laugh’-types), they prefer to establish the facts, looking for clarity and information. Autumns are perfectionists and use a thoughtful approach to work, enthusiastically research and analyse. With being detail-oriented, they can get bogged down and over-analyse, and can be very sensitive to feedback because of the energy they put into a project. 

Summer – Being the largest represented season according to Steve’s research (49% of thousands of participants across various sectors), Summers are people-oriented. They lead through consensus, promoting harmony and balanced, often talking of the collective success of a team (“We” achieved X, rather than “I”). Warm and easy-going, they have a calm approach to stress, putting others first thinking of the impact on the team, but often become stress-sponges putting other’s problems on their shoulders. A Summer can have a lack of self-belief and undervalue themselves, struggling to take positive feedback, with an approach of ‘I am just doing my job’. 

Winter – The opposite of a Summer, a Winter leads through compliance. They like efficiency and focus and are extremely hard working with a preference for action, competition, achievement and results. They have high levels of self-belief and confidence, and some may define this season as the typical ‘Alpha work culture’ stereotype. Often seen to handle stress well, they may perceive a pressured work environment as an ideal which can result in a lack of empathy for others. Their output and work ethic is exemplary but can struggle to know when to stop at the cost of their own personal needs. A Winter won’t use 25 words if 5 is enough, and with that can be impatient, seeing their way as the only way. sometimes coming across as insensitive. 

  1. What do you bring to the workplace?
  2. What do you struggle with? 
  3. How do you like to communicate? 
  4. What does someone with a different season need to do to get the best out of you? 
A white woman in white vest and black leggings, and orange scarf, sat in a chair with her right arm held up

Invitation of Structure and the Stress Bucket

By | Artist Development, Blog, Uncategorised

Michelle Dee, writer and performer, is one of our participants for the Recover, Restart and Reimagine programme and she has taken some time to reflect on thoughts after the group’s first week, with a focus on recovering.

When you’ve spent the last 16 months on and off with your doorstep as your full stop, the invitation of structure is either just what you need or maybe tempting fate. The line ‘invitation of structure’ came from one of the other participants in the programme but it resonated with me, it landed in my lap like a warning.

During the three lockdowns, I quickly fell into a routine of getting up each day, eating breakfast switching on or avoiding the news depending on my mood. I moved around my flat like a robot from one space to the other, finding different ways to pass the time. I found I couldn’t bring myself to focus on reading an entire book, so read bits of poetry, articles online, the minute details of how to shield that fell through my letterbox on a regular basis.

The Recover, Restart and Reimagine programme demanded the attendance of each candidate 9am to 6pm, four days a week. That has come as quite a challenge but so far so good. I have got through the first week and not been late.

As a freelancer in the before times I didn’t have regular hours, that’s not to say I didn’t work hard, but it would be at irregular hours, forever changing and some weeks would be intense, whereas others would stretch out: empty as my bank balance.

We artists have to be able to adapt to different situations, some projects demand more from us than others, sometimes this is dependent on whatever fee we have managed to negotiate. With the Recover, Restart and Reimagine project the fee is set, the rules have been negotiated by each one of us, we all understand. I wasn’t prepared for how it would feel to be in a space, day on day with the same group, each one passionate about their work, each wondering how they can ever get back to how they expressed themselves creatively before. It has felt quite overwhelming at times and emotional. I have come to recognise how much I need this is in my life, the chance to connect with new and familiar faces, talking, laughing the ebb and flow of conversation, without a screen between us.

Another idea introduced by a participant on Recover, Restart and Reimagine programme was the idea of a Stress Bucket. They described how we all have a stress bucket and how it might contain a manageable level of stress-inducing things. With the lockdowns and Covid paralysing many of our lives, the levels of stress have increased. They talked about each of us having a background stress level before Covid, and how new stresses wouldn’t necessarily tip the balance. With Covid and all the different ways that has impacted and changed our every day the background stress levels have increased significantly so that a seemingly insignificant incident or issue can now fill the stress bucket so it overflows much more than it ever would before.

Recover, Restart and Reimagine has been designed not to add to that stress bucket but to try to understand and find new ways to counter the stress feelings, to lower the background stress levels to a manageable level. It does this in a number of ways, one of which is the introduction of Yoga sessions every morning. I have found I have had to adapt some of the moves to meet my own abilities, while some are in downward dog others are in tabletop or when warrior pose is called for I’m managing waving at seagulls.

The necessity of taking time out to breathe has never been more important or rewarding. I have been reminded once again that I have spent the last forty years breathing incorrectly, instead of filling the belly with air when breathing in, I have always pulled the stomach in creating a hollow, then releasing the breath. After these sessions, there is a wonderful sense of calm in the room, that before I might have disregarded as new age nonsense, but now I think there might just be something in it after all.

A white woman in white vest and black leggings, and orange scarf, sat in a chair with her right arm held up
Recover Restart Reimagine Artwork

Recover, Restart and Reimagine programme launches

By | Artist Development, News, Uncategorised

Today sees the start of our gently radical Recover, Restart and Reimagine programme, in which 13 Hull theatre workers will be paid to come together to think, breathe and play.

Those involved will be able to participate in organised activities and self-led time to inspire, stretch and develop creative muscles after a year of lockdown and theatre closures.

Recover, Restart and Reimagine combines masterclasses and workshops with skill-sharing and self-development and time to play, with sessions by Tabby Lamb, Nastazja Domaradzka, Tobi Kyeremateng, Mick Ord, Sagar Shah, Jon Beney and many more.

The first week will focus on recovery, wellbeing and reflection. Week two is dedicated to restarting, with opportunities to refresh skills, plan and try new things and week three is all about reimagining, with time to dream about what the future should look like – and put actions in place to make that future happen.

The programme will also form a crucial theatre worker support network in Hull as we ease out of lockdown.

The 13 participants, who were chosen by a selection panel of freelancers after applying last month, include two parents who are sharing a place around childcare.

Follow Middle Child on Twitter and Instagram for updates throughout the programme.

Recover, Restart and Reimagine is made possible by the Cultural Recovery Fund and Smile Foundation I Am Fund. Thanks also go to Princes Quay for providing us with a space for three weeks.

Alice Beaumont

Actor and theatre maker

Ellen Brammar

Writer

Emma Bright

Actor and theatre maker

Rachel Dale

Actor and writer/comedian

Michelle Dee

Writer and performer

Adam Foley

Lighting and video designer

Headshot of a smiling Black man in a yellow t-shirt
Angelo Irving

Writer, theatre maker and artist

Kerrie Marsh

Writer and performer

Freya Noman

Actor and theatre maker

Josh Overton

Theatre maker

Alice Palmer

Actor, theatre maker and facilitator

Alex Parker

Theatre maker and poet

Lizi Perry

Theatre maker

Recover Restart Reimagine Artwork

Why we’re supporting Hull theatre workers to Recover, Restart and Reimagine

By | Artist Development, Artistic Director, Blog, Uncategorised
Recover Restart Reimagine Artwork

Artwork by Joseph Cox

By Paul Smith, artistic director

This time last year I wrote about how Middle Child were going quiet for a bit so that we could make more noise in future. A lot has happened since then, with more uncertainty crammed into a 12 month period than I can remember at any other point in my 34 years. During that period Middle Child, like all of us in the arts, have had to try new things, find new ways of working and try to keep hold of our purpose as the world twists and turns. It has been, without doubt, the hardest period in our company’s 10 year history as we – a company who exist to bring people together, celebrate liveness and fight for the underdog – lost projects, lost our home and, truthfully, lost everything we knew how to do. Speaking personally, the year has taken its toll, leading to a crisis of confidence, of purpose and of “is theatre really the best way we can put something good into the world?”

But with this introspection and amidst all of this uncertainty comes a unique kind of clarity. A clarity around values. Around why we do what we do. Around the decisions we need to make. And it is these core values that have guided the way for Middle Child throughout this entire pandemic and which have led us to each and every decision we have made along the way. They were central to our decision to start a fundraiser for freelancers who had lost income, our choice to introduce flexible working to our organisation and our decision to continue employing freelancers and investing in people throughout the pandemic.

They are also the cause of areas of hesitancy, caution and nervousness. They tangle us up in knots as we try to navigate complex issues and they dominate our conscience as we try to grow as a company in a way that feels “us”. Our values are what we return to when balancing creative ambition, financial sustainability, politics, morality, health and safety, work-life balance and straight-up uncomplicated ego. They are there when we consider whether to apply for the Cultural Recovery Fund, whether to put the panto online, whether to take over this new building or that one. When all else is dark it is these values that light the way and lead us onwards. And so, in deciding what to do next and how we ‘re-emerge’ from the pandemic we must do so guided by our values. 

As a company whose guiding vision is for a fair and equitable world, where anyone’s story can be told and heard, it is clear that we simply cannot stand by and risk losing a generation of theatre workers either as a result of a pandemic or because of an industry that continues to be built to work only for a select few. And so we got to work.

On 11 March this year we hosted a day online, which we called Imagine the Future, that brought together a group of brilliant freelancers from theatre and further afield to help us consider four questions:

  1. What do you need post-pandemic?
  2. How do we better support freelancers?
  3. How can we be more inclusive as a city and a sector?
  4. What should an arts hub look like, feel like, what should happen there?

It was an incredible day, full of brilliant ideas, generosity and a conviction that things can be better. We listened, learnt and were left with an overwhelming number of great ideas for what the future could look like. We felt the weight of those conversations, and also of those that weren’t had, of those who weren’t there. We felt energised by the potential of our action and tired by the thought of its scale. We were inspired by possibility and overwhelmed by choice. We looked at the list of suggestions with optimism and then at our budget with pragmatism. A few things became clear:

  1. We can’t do everything. Not yet anyway.
  2. We can do something. 

And so, what we are announcing today isn’t the “Middle Child 20 Year Action Plan for a Better World”, it’s simply our next “something”. It’s a something based on the listening, learning and reflecting we’ve been doing over the past year, and we truly believe it will make a genuine difference and is gently radical in its own way. And then one day soon we’ll announce another something, and another something and another something

Recover, Restart and Reimagine

From both our Imagine the Future day and some of the wider reading we’ve been doing, such as from Freelancers Make Theatre Work, it’s clear that there are calls for deeper, more meaningful engagement with freelancers, a call for more equity and power to be distributed to freelancers, and a call for an investment in people, rather than projects. Our Recover, Restart and Reimagine programme is built on these three pillars and designed in response to an acknowledgment that the past 12 months have led to a loss of confidence, income and opportunity for freelancers across the sector. 

Everyone at Middle Child is determined to contribute to a sustainable reimagining of our industry following the impact of the pandemic, and our first offer to this end is a partly-curated, partly-self-led programme, which will last for three weeks, paying 12 Hull freelancers £1,500 each to come together to rebuild confidence, develop skills and take stock. 

The programme, which runs four days per week, 9am – 6pm, from 15 June to 2 July, represents a space to think, breathe and play without the pressure of coming up with an output. It is designed to inspire, stretch and develop participants in a safe space, which acknowledges what we’ve been through and the impact on our work and our practices. Everyone involved will be paid for their time and also benefit from a wide range of free workshops, masterclasses and training alongside group time, individual time and free time. To partially quote one of our Imagine the Future post-it notes, it’ll be a bit like Byker Grove meets a Rocky montage, but with a spa soundtrack.

The first week will be dedicated to recovery with a focus on wellbeing, self-care and reflection. Week two will focus on restarting with time to refresh skills, make plans and try something new. Week three will be all about reimagining, with time spent envisioning the future, dreaming about what it should look like and putting actions in place to make it happen. Alongside all of this run a number of recurring events, from group play readings and coffee mornings to skill sharings and open discussions. We’ll create our own haven fuelled by respect, curiosity and care.

Our ambition is for these three weeks to be transformative for all who take part with participants leaving feeling ready for the battles ahead but not burnt out by deadlines or pressures of output. 

We would love to hear from people who live and work in Hull and who contribute to making theatre in any way, be it through acting, directing, designing, stage managing, producing, composing or any other role you might find in a show programme. We want applications from those we know and those we don’t, from people at the very beginning of their career to those who’ve been around a while. We welcome and encourage applications from everyone regardless of their age, race, religion or belief, sexual orientation, gender identity, ethnicity, disability or nationality.

We are a PiPA (Parents and Carers in Performing Arts) partner and are always happy to discuss solutions that allow people to balance caring responsibilities with working lives, for example through sharing a place on the programme or a flexible attendance arrangement.

You can apply because you know exactly what you want from life, or because you have no idea. We’re as interested in chaos and confusion as we are in clarity and certainty. Our application process is simple and straightforward, and all we ask for is honesty and for you to be yourself. In line with ongoing efforts to decentralise power and decision making in our organisation, choices around selection for this programme will be informed by an advisory panel of freelancers. 

This programme is representative of our ongoing desire to offer practical solutions, and take action to return with renewed energy for an improved theatre industry. We believe this radical programme, which invests in people, rather than projects, represents a good first step in doing so locally and is a meaningful investment in the freelancers upon whom our work depends.

We will continue to listen, take stock and lead necessary action across other areas of our company to improve what we do, and how we do it. There is much more happening in the background that we will talk about when we can, but for now we hope this programme is an exciting offer, which is proof that we will turn words into value-led action as we build a better future together.

An actor sits on the floor holding a mic. Text says "Recover Restart Reimagine"

Recover, Restart and Reimagine in 2021

By | Artist Development, News, Uncategorised
An actor sits on the floor holding a mic. Text says

The start of this week saw restrictions on the toughest lockdown yet ease for the first time in months, coinciding with a spell of unseasonal warm weather. For the first time in a long time, it feels like we’re heading towards something that might look like life after the pandemic. Touch wood.

As a theatre company that has been working from home for the past year and exclusively online, we could come out of one of the most challenging years of our lives full tilt. However, from speaking with many of the freelancers who are part of the extended Middle Child family, such as at our recent Imagine the Future discussion, it’s clear that not everybody has the energy just yet.

People have varying degrees of confidence about the months ahead: some people are chomping at the bit, while others may have reservations. Let’s not forget that the pandemic isn’t actually over yet. For others, spending a year or more within the same few walls has worn away at mental health and the ability to be creative. There’s a lot of mental and physical muscle memory to start flexing again and it’s going to take time.

So what are Middle Child going to do about it?

On Tuesday we learned that we’ve received £76,065 from the second round of the Cultural Recovery Fund. It’s a huge sum of money and we take seriously our responsibility to use it to benefit our wider theatre community – both artists and audiences – here in Hull, an already deprived city that has been especially badly hit by the pandemic.

Given all of the above, it’s clear that many theatre makers in Hull need the time, money and resource to Recover, Restart and Reimagine. So that’s what we’re going to do over the coming months, with a bespoke programme of work aimed at supporting our workforce and local freelancers to re-adjust at their own speed, in a way that is safe and sustainable.

That includes putting money into freelancers’ pockets to attend and benefit from workshops, residencies and sharings, as part of our largest ever artist development programme. There is also a programme of work that will see us return to the stage in 2021, which will employ theatre makers as well as once again provide audiences with unforgettable live experiences.

Furthermore we are excited to be able to return to Hull city centre with a new pop-up arts space in the summer, following the closure of our creative hub, Darley’s, last year, while we continue to locate a permanent home in the longer term.

We’re not quite ready to share all the details just yet – we’ll make a proper splash about all of that soon enough. However we are certain that this approach will have a huge impact on the long-term future of Hull, sharing skills and resources to build resilience and confidence in both our workforce and freelancers, acknowledging that we simply cannot be sustainable without you.

It’s an unprecedented situation and we’ll do our best to get this right and respond to any changes around us, putting people’s health and wellbeing first. We are committed to being open about our plans and acknowledging our shortcomings as well as shouting about our successes. Our door is always open and we welcome thoughts on how Recover, Restart and Reimagine, as well as our wider work, can better help people in Hull.

We also remain aware of the challenges our industry continues to face and wish to express solidarity with those organisations who did not receive funding this week. We will do all we can to share resources and support both individuals and organisations in the continued fight for survival. Please don’t hesitate to contact us if you would like to talk further.

The life after the pandemic that we mentioned at the top cannot look like the life many people lived before. We remain a company committed to creating greater equity in who makes and enjoys theatre and will use this investment to continue to work towards a more inclusive and representative industry.

We are also delighted to hear that our local partners Hull Truck Theatre, Hull Jazz Festival, Artlink, the John Godber Company, the Adelphi Club, Wrecking Ball Press, Northern Academy of Performing Arts, ITSL and HPSS were also successful in their applications to the Cultural Recovery Fund.

We look forward to sharing full details of what we have planned in the coming weeks.

With love and solidarity,

Middle Child x

Three performers dance with hands in the air on stage, in the round. A female bassist is silhouetted in the foreground.

Job vacancy: Executive Director (Maternity Cover)

By | Uncategorised

Ever fancied working with us? We are looking for a positive and motivated self-starter who is committed to making world-class theatre from our home in Hull to join our core team.

The executive director (maternity cover) will look after the company’s finances, report to the board of trustees, raise money, manage the team and executively produce all our shows, working alongside our artistic director, Paul Smith.

The position is a 12 month full-time contract from May/June 2021, paying between £27,000-30,000.

No previous experience is necessary and we welcome applications from people looking to make their first step into such a role.

More details about the role, including a recruitment pack and our family-friendly working environment, are available on our jobs page.

A finger points at an illustration of Cinderella on a computer screen

How we animated #Pantoverse with My Pockets

By | Blog, Panto, Shows, Uncategorised

Middle Child have asked me, Peter Snelling of My Pockets, to write a blog post on what it is like to create the digital content for their Christmas show, Pattie Breadcake: Into the Pantoverse. They have also said that what whatever I write, to be honest.  They have, to be honest, asked me this more than once. In fact, it might even be eight times. I don’t really know why I am resisting doing it. I don’t always like unpicking a creative process: I’m sometimes a bit lazy and sometimes I feel weird about putting things on the internet that will be there forever, like the terrible photo of me taken in 2004 that never goes away.

Anyway, I am going to do it now. I’ve made a cup of tea, I’ve got a salted caramel Hobnob snack bar, I’m going to keep writing until it’s done. Hello, if you are still reading; this is everything I know about making a piece of digital content for a Middle Child panto.

Animator Peter Snelling holds up a hand drawn picture of Pattie Breadcake

First of all Paul [Smith, artistic director] rang me up. I think it’s weird how people get to a point where they ring each other up. I met Paul at one thing somewhere, then somewhere else, then saw a Middle Child play and emailed to say I liked it, then asked him for a favour on something, then he rang me up to ask if I could animate a panto.

Over the years as an organisation that only wants to make creative work we have had times when we’ve been on the brink of running out of money. So I find it almost impossible to say no to creative projects. As My Pockets has become more established it’s something I need to address. I know that Elvis had the same problem with food. He’d been hungry once and so when he reached a point in his life where burgers were freely available, he found it impossible to not eat them all.

Not that Middle Child is just another burger that Elvis is stuffing into his mouth. Paul ringing felt more like an invite to a gastro pub. So we started to think about how to turn the panto into something that would work online. Our animations at My Pockets take ages to make. We create about 10 seconds a day. The conversation was in November and the panto needed to be the length of a play, so there was no way we could make it in the normal way. This year we have been experimenting with software that tracks your face and moves a kind of animated puppet along with it, then you wiggle the arms and legs with a mouse and the animation is made. It’s much quicker than the conventional way of doing it and felt like the perfect solution.

A pen in a hand, drawing all of the various panto characters on white paper

Next we needed to design the animated puppets. For me this is the fun bit. I’ve always loved drawing; I like the way it is so quick, that you can do it anywhere, that it needs no technology.  I also don’t think I’m very good at it, which is liberating. I think wanting to be good, or thinking you are good can be really limiting to creativity. It can get in the way of just saying what you want to say. Why is it that those blokes that joined Oasis after Bonehead left are much better at playing guitar, but somehow can’t make the same noise?

I think it’s because being good is not as important as… I’m not sure what it’s not as important as, but I know that if you ask me to draw a vase of flowers with a 2B pencil, the results are always very disappointing. But when I drew Pattie Breadcake in 10 seconds after reading the script I was like, “Yes, that’s her!”

In fact almost all of the characters were drawn first time in seconds, immediately after reading the script. I felt guilty about it and drew each one a few more times afterwards to try and justify my fee, but the first ones were all the best.

A finger points at an illustration of Cinderella on a computer screen

I know that the Middle Child panto is loved by lots of people and that it has this kind of anarchic energy. It’s alive and so the quick drawing seems right. It seems like a performance.  We made a few adjustments. Cinderella went from being in a pink princess dress to a tracksuit with headphones, while her face also went from being pink, to green to orange. But really I think that the spirit of the drawing and the spirit of the panto were so well matched it was pretty easy. I think finding creative people who share your spirit is the key to making things that work.

So the fun part was now over. Now I had to bring in the drawings, colour them in Photoshop and make them work with the animation software, against the backdrop of Natalie Young’s set design: photographs of an actual model box! Then I had to perform the whole panto, wiggling my head around in front of my webcam to capture all the movement, lip syncing to the audio files recorded by the actors over Zoom and mastered by Ed Clarke, with music composed by James Frewer. And then export it all, which took a whole weekend of checking the blue bar creeping across my laptop screen. Don’t waste your life watching the blue bar.

A screenshot of the animation software, with a picture of the Evil Queen being motion captured by Peter Snelling in another image box

I’ve finished my cup of tea. I’ve eaten my sugary snack. Now I’ve got to do some terrible Zoom call on a project that I’m not entirely sure I really want to do. Maybe this will be the one I’ll say no to. Maybe now is the time to make a break for freedom.

Working with Middle Child has been a real pleasure. It’s been fun and creative. And they have been so supportive, it’s a breath of fresh air. I can see why their shows are so great; it’s because the people and the company are great. I hope that our animated show helps to plug the 2020 gap of panto anarchy that people will be missing. I can’t wait to see what people think of the Pantoverse.

A snowy winter scene with a young person on a sled, another person in a wheelchair and a dog.

Christmas theatre in and from Hull

By | News, Panto, Uncategorised

We finally get to share Pattie Breadcake: Into the Pantoverse with you from tomorrow, but we’re not the only Hull-based company making work this Christmas. 

We’ve pulled together a round-up of all the excellent shows that theatre makers in the city have been working hard to bring to people over the holidays.

An invitation to watch Prince Charming on a snow background, with toy soldier figurines.

Prince Charming’s Christmas Cracker
Hull Truck Theatre, 22 Dec-4 Jan

A festive fairy-tale adventure sprinkled with surprises, sparkle and a hint of magic, free to stream into your own home, thanks to the support of Hull City Council and East Riding of Yorkshire Council.

This year, Prince Charming is once more throwing open the palace gates and invites you to attend his annual Christmas ball, the eagerly anticipated ‘Christmas Cracker’. The hottest ticket in town, it is a ‘do’ like you’ve never been to before, and the Prince certainly knows how to party!

From festive music to Karaoke, unexpected guests and lashings of humour, the Christmas Cracker has it all. But this year, everyone, especially Cinderella, is in for a big surprise! There is more to this Christmas Cracker than originally meets the eye.

More info
A snowy winter scene with a young person on a sled, another person in a wheelchair and a dog.

Winter Wonderland
Concrete Youth, 18 Dec

It’s winter: the days are shorter, the trees are looking bare and the temperatures have plummeted. But…there’s no snow! The Snow Machine in Winter Wonderland has broken and, if it can’t be fixed, winter will be ruined forever!

But all is not lost. Jack Frost and the Snow Queen have heard that you, the winterns at home, can help them.

Can you work out why it’s broken? Will you help Jack and Snow mend it and save winter? And does yellow snow really taste like chicken?

Following their 5-star, online production, Shebaa’s Adventure to Jopplety How, the multi-award winning, Concrete Youth, in partnership with Hull New Theatre, present a brand new, pre-recorded multi-sensory show for audiences with profound and multiple learning disabilities.

Packed full of frosty sensory moments and fun, Winter Wonderland is the perfect, snowy show to get you in the holiday mood.

More info
Photo of one of the Roaring Girls in Christmas pyjamas laughing and pointing at her laptop

The Roaring Girls Christmas Parties

Christmas is just around the corner and after a year of working from home and closed pubs, let The Roaring Girls into your Zoom waiting room for a fun-filled 90 minutes this December.

Say goodbye to overpriced drinks & overcrowded pubs. In 2020, let the party come to you. 

The Roaring Girls are waiting at the end of their internet connection to provide you with an evening of festive entertainment, perfect for staff parties or friends who are looking for something different.

Just remember – A Roaring Girl is for life, not just for Christmas!

To book your exclusive Roaring Girls Party, or to find out more, email Rachael on hello@theroaringgirls.co.uk.

Christmassy image that says 1Upstarts presents DeliveRudolph

DeliveRudolph
1Upstarts, 19 Dec

DeliveRudolph is 1Upstarts’ specially designed, socially distanced Santa visit service, created exclusively in response to the ongoing Covid crisis. 

The company understand that a lot of people will really struggle with a large proportion of Christmas services being disrupted by Coronavirus. As such they wanted to create a safe and simple way of keeping a timeheld Christmas tradition for a lot of people, visiting Santa.

Their exclusive service will see us bringing the Santa visit to you. 

Once you have booked, their professional Santa will make his way to your house on the day of your choice along with any additional giftbags you’ve purchased and give you and your family a five minute personalised visit.

What better way to maintain the magic of Christmas than having your very own Santa on your doorstep!

More info

Spirits of the Season
Smashing Mirrors, 23 Dec

“It’s Christmas time in Hull. Nearly Christmas Eve. And strange things can happen on Christmas Eve don’t you know…”

Smashing Mirrors Theatre have linked with Hull New Theatre to bring you real-life tales of hauntings in Hull. Settle down for classic local ghost stories over the festive period, with this brand new exclusive short film.

Supported by Hull City Council.

Facebook Live. 8pm. 23rd Dec

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