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Cinderella - Fairy

We’re fundraising for Hull Foodbank at Beauty and the Beast

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Cinderella - Fairy

Photo by Sarah Beth

This Christmas we will once again be fundraising for a local charity at our alternative pantomime, Beauty and the Beast.

Our chosen charity for 2018 is Hull Foodbank, which is based in Jubilee Central, where Beauty and the Beast will be performed from 18-23 December.

You raised £3,140.39 for Hull Homeless Community Project and Hull Red at our panto in 2017, Cinderella, smashing the previous year’s total’s of £1,757.58.

We will also be collecting towards our annual charity and community ticket scheme, which provides free tickets to people who otherwise wouldn’t be able to see a Christmas show.

Groups that will benefit from free tickets to this year’s pantomime include Hull Red, Beats Bus, Age UK, Creative Briefs, Humber All Nations Alliance, Living Hope Church and The Warren.

Just Club Theatre

First Show Fund awarded to Just Club theatre company

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Just Club Theatre

Photo by Edmond Denning.

Just Club is the first Hull-based theatre company to receive the First Show Fund through our artist development programme, Reverb.

The company will receive funding to pay for venue hire, script printing and marketing costs and other in-kind support to produce their first ever show, Standing Too Close On Our Own In the Dark.

Just Club is a brand-new theatre company formed by University of Hull graduates, founding members and best mates, Jamie Nowell, Matthew Collins and Jake Marsden.

They create unique, spirited, happy-sad theatre experiences which fuse together live music, spoken text and a night out with your mates to replicate the moment that your favourite band plays that song and for three minutes, you’re inspired and self-assured.

Just Club’s Jake Marsden said: “We are so humbled and delighted to be the recipients of Middle Child’s First Show Fund.

“The fund will enable us to refine our work and ensure our ‘happy-sad’ experience connects with as many people as possible.

“We’re also incredibly excited to be supported by a company who inspire us and are doing fantastic work in keeping Hull on the theatrical map by engaging audiences in a powerful and meaningful way, setting a great example for anyone making theatre right now.”

Paul Smith, Middle Child artistic director, said: “We’re absolutely delighted to be able to support Just Club in producing and performing their first ever show in Hull.

“We’re really impressed by the company’s dedication and determination to create new work, in Hull, so soon after graduating from the city’s university.

“This is exactly what our First Show Fund is designed to support and we can’t wait to help Just Club take their first steps in making theatre in Hull.”

You can see Standing Too Close On Our Own In the Dark at the Adelphi Club in Hull on Tuesday 15 January 2019.

​The Reverb artist development programme is Middle Child’s commitment to ensuring that artists in Hull are given top-class development opportunities across disciplines without needing to leave the city.

Hull Takeover 2017

Get funding and in-kind support to head to Edinburgh Fringe in 2019

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Hull Takeover 2017

Last year we hit the Edinburgh Fringe alongside three other Hull-based companies and a Hull UK City of Culture 2017 commission as part of the Hull Takeover.

150 volunteers travelled to the Royal Mile to wave the Hull flag and the companies brought back five star reviews and awards, national media attention, transfers and tours.

In 2019 Absolutely Cultured, through the continuing work of the Hull Independent Producers Initiative, and in partnership with Middle Child and Hull Truck Theatre, plan to takeover the world’s biggest arts festival once again.

We are asking for Hull-based companies that already plan to go to Edinburgh for a minimum of one week, between the dates of 2-27 August, to apply to be part of the Hull Takeover 2019.

The offer includes a £3,000 cash bursary, mentorship, graphic design and photography, tech time at Hull Truck and other in-kind support.

See the Absolutely Cultured website for more details about the Takeover and how to apply.

Scripts

Buy £2 scripts as part of #ThanksToYou

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Scripts

From Monday 3 to Friday 7 December we’re offering huge discounts on our play scripts to National Lottery ticket holders, as part of #ThanksToYou week.

We’re one of hundreds of National Lottery funded organisations across the UK saying thank you to people who have raised money for good causes by buying a lottery ticket.

To take advantage simply pop-in to our library and rehearsal space in Hull during opening hours (10am-5pm) and present a National Lottery ticket or scratchcard.

You’ll then be able to buy a copy of All We Ever Wanted Was Everything, by Luke Barnes; One Life Stand, by Eve Nicol; or I Hate Alone by Ellen Brammar, for £2 each, the same price as a National Lottery ticket.

Our status as a national portfolio organisation with Arts Council England is supported by National Lottery funding, which pays for our productions and artist development work.

All National Lottery games qualify for free entry, including both National Lottery draw-based games and National Lottery Scratchcards. Proof of purchase of a National Lottery game can be either a hard copy ticket or a digital ticket.

The offer is valid from Monday 3 December to Friday 7 December.

Alice Beaumont at Bush Theatre 2

Sometimes people in the arts are up the duff

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Alice Beaumont at Bush Theatre 2

Photo by Helen Murray

Actor and Middle Child associate artist Alice Beaumont writes about her experience of performing while pregnant.


I’m currently in All We Ever Wanted Was Everything, at the Bush Theatre, with Middle Child. I’m also six months pregnant. It’s been a very interesting experience. It’s also something that I don’t think is talked about very often. So, I wanted to talk about what it’s been like, what it’s felt like, in the hope that others who are in the same position, or contemplating starting that journey, might be able to relate.

First, let me say that I am very lucky. I am working with an incredible theatre company and a very supportive and empathetic cast and crew. I can’t imagine what this time would have been like had I not had such great people around me I can’t emphasise enough how supported I’ve felt by Middle Child, Bush Theatre and the cast and crew.

It’s been fun — puking on Overground platforms aside. It’s also been very strange. I’ve been an actor for eight years, and pregnant never. I was apprehensive about the long run in London, being away from my favourite person and my home, but also incredibly excited. I’ve been looking forward to performing in this show — it has deep emotional significance because of its long life and collaborative nature — at this venue, for a very long time and I was determined that no amount of utterly bizarre symptoms would stop me.

I didn’t know what the practicalities would be of being pregnant and doing a short, but very intense, show eight times a week for nearly four weeks. But now we’re in the final week of the run, I’m navigating my way a bit more effectively. The things I, and I imagine other pregnant actors, have had to pay more attention to than I normally would are: sleep, food and symptoms.

My sleep is all over the shop, waking up with a screaming bladder every couple of hours and plodding off to the bathroom. This kid presses on my bladder 24/7, to the point where I’m no longer even sure whether I actually need to wee, because it just feels like I permanently need a wee. I’m pretty freaking tired all the time, sometimes mustering up the energy for the show feels like quite a task, but then I’ve always found performing exhausting — and simultaneously exhilarating.

It’s hard to know when to eat. I find that tricky when I’m in a show under normal circumstances, but now I’m aware that I’m not just feeding myself. I’ve had some serious refined sugar cravings — we’re talking an unreasonable amount of Skittles — and whilst I do give in to the cravings a lot of the time, I now have to think about the baby’s health as well as the potentially enormous sugar crash half way through the show.

Anyone who has ever been pregnant will know that you can’t really predict the fabulous array of symptoms that might come up. I’ve experienced a good deal of abdominal pain, which I’m told are stretching pains. As well as being very disconcerting, these don’t go hand-in-hand with jumping around on stage. Plus, hot water bottles are not part of my costume, unfortunately.

Alice Beaumont at Bush Theatre

Photo by Helen Murray.

Emotionally, it’s been a whirlwind. It’s very hard to describe but something I’ve been feeling a lot is somehow being separate and ‘other’. Performing is a world I know so well: during tech week I recognised my surroundings, everything was so familiar, but I was completely altered. I found it very difficult not to feel like the odd one out, even though no one was treating me any different. I looked at my peers and felt like I saw multiple potential paths stretching out ahead of them, just as mine used to, but now I only had one. And it’s a fantastic one, of course, but I wasn’t used to having something set in stone for me.

I’ve been described as something of a ‘drifter’ by loved ones, which can come with the territory of being a freelance actor, never knowing when the next job might come along, but now my title had changed and along with it a slight loss of freedom. My sense of identity was rattled and losing that control, going from lots of future options to one very clear one, was tricky. I’m not going to pretend that I don’t still struggle with it; I do.

And when contemplating the future, I’ve had creeping thoughts which sound something like: “Is the sun setting on my career, is this my last show?” – or something as equally dramatic. It’s hard not to imagine that my “value”, in the eyes of this industry, is decreasing. When we’re already in an industry saturated with incredible talent and very available actors, who would want a performer who is building a baby? And that negative outlook is present before I even think about the next step: what it’s going to be like having a child whilst pursuing an acting career?

I have nothing but admiration for actors who are also parents and I know that there are many of them out there. I don’t know how they do it, so I guess I’ll have to cross that bridge when it comes, with as much mental and practical preparation as possible. For now, I’m focussing on the most pressing thing for me, which is managing the mental rollercoaster of being a pregnant actor. I feel bad for my fellow actors in the cast, I’m surprised they’re not sick of me going on about tummy pains and voicing my very obvious body issues; if they’re bored of hearing about those things, they are kind enough to keep it from me. They’ve been nothing but supportive.

I’m fully aware that these feelings are from my particular perspective, one that is certainly impacted by a jumble of hormones and big physical changes. This is not actually the way it is, it’s just how I looked at it. I’m not saying that the reality is that my peers feel like they have multiple paths and options, they certainly do not have it easy and I’m not trying to speak for them. It’s just what I saw from my strange new view. Just as everything in life that we experience, it’s all from a very specific perspective.

A thought that has cropped up a lot over these four weeks has been: Why isn’t this talked about more? I’ve had actor friends who have been pregnant, or had pregnant partners, and on an acting job, but maybe only two. And it’s got me thinking about pregnant creatives, especially those who are freelance, across the board. If you want a baby, and you are self-employed or not part of a company with maternity pay and schemes, when do you decide to go for it?

It can be a lonely thing being a freelancer in the arts. Couple that with carrying a child, or deciding to try and make that happen, and the emotional and practical ramifications are not insignificant. I would say to anyone thinking about it: make the decision solely based on what you want. We’re already in an industry that feels so hard to navigate, that demands so much of us, that we comply with just in case it potentially puts us in a better position for landing a role, eg: I can’t possibly get my hair cut because it won’t match my headshots; I can’t book a holiday because I might get an audition; I have to work these three zero hour jobs in catering to survive; I’ve written to 4,000 casting directors but I have to keep emailing etc. etc.

Don’t let this be another thing that is dictated to you by an industry that is often not kind. Being pregnant and getting cast is possible; being pregnant and working is possible; being pregnant and being in a show/on screen/jobbing is possible; we’re just told that we need to be utterly flexible, utterly malleable and utterly available — but it’s not true. This isn’t about ‘having it all’, a phrase I’m not fond of because it’s designed to be empowering but actually feels patronising; it’s about sometimes sticking two fingers up to what we’ve been told and taking the plunge and doing what you want. And let’s talk about it. Let’s acknowledge that sometimes people in the arts are up the duff.

You can see Alice in All We Ever Wanted Was Everything at the Bush Theatre in London until Saturday 24 November.

All We Ever Wanted Was Everything: Q&A with James Frewer

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Photo by Helen Murray

Middle Child associate artist and All We Ever Wanted Was Everything composer and musical director, James Frewer, talks about the music in the show, currently running at the Bush Theatre in London.

Tell us about the role of music in the show.

The role of the music is to help communicate the story, to make the audience feel in a way that sometimes words can’t and to create the atmosphere of a gig. Its sets the era in which each particular act is in and acts as a voyeur, looking in and commenting on our story.

How do you use music to capture the different eras in the story?

The show is split into three acts and each act is in a different era. At the top of each act we do a pastiche of what, to me, the sound of that era was. After the more obvious opening to the act, the underscores and choruses that follow are in keeping with the era. As well as the actual composition of the music, sounds of instruments are important. Guitar pedals feature quite heavily and the way the music is played. Each era has a certain feel: the ’90s has a big anthemic feel, 2007 is a very scrappy indie feel and 2017 is over-produced and everything should sound very tight.

The astroid has her own music which we set in techno land. I felt techno was a good place to put her, and there is something quite interesting in someone singing emotionally over quite stilted and rigid beats and some beautiful synths.

Without giving lots away, the music collides at the end of the show, and the live band join voices with the astroid which should be the amalgamation of worlds, techno and heavy rock collide in a big way.

Tell us more about the music writing process for the show.

With a Middle Child show, there is usually a lot of talking and an exchange of quite a few Spotify playlists. Then what tends to happen is that Paul and I get into a room with a piano and a guitar and start writing. I really enjoy working and writing with a director in that way, being challenged and provoked. I think for All We Ever Wanted we did two one week stints of writing. We record some pretty shitty demos and I tend to take those away with me and over-listen and over-play them, and start making subtle new additions to the melodies or the chord structure.

I never write any underscore until the rehearsal process. I think music should always serve the story which you are trying to tell. In the same way, I only write the music for a song when the lyrics have been written. To me, music should support the point you are trying to tell. The melody then has a purpose of what it is trying to achieve.

We always realise that there is a song we need to add into a show. Rehearsal processes take twists and turns and as a result new music often needs to be written. I quite like leaving something unwritten until quite late; I sadistically enjoy the pressure of writing something last minute, as I often find it gives good results.

The sound design of a show like this is also so important. I work very closely with our sound designer and fellow Middle Child associate artist, the brilliant Ed Clarke, for everything that I’ve written to be heard as intended, but also to make sure the dialogue is heard. In live shows, we have a brilliant sound mixer, Chris Prosho, who negotiates all the changes that occur every night, with a huge amount of skill and precision.

Has anything changed, musically, since the 2017 version?

I think every time that we do this show there will always be slight changes to it. The songs and chorus are pretty much the same, with maybe the odd change in inflection. But the music changes to a certain degree every night: that’s the beauty of it. The music should be live and it should respond to the actors, so if an actor makes a particular choice one night, you go with it. I want the score of this show to constantly evolve.

Photo by Sarah Beth

What is your relationship with the director, Paul Smith, in the room?

We’ve been working together for nearly ten years now, so I would say pretty fluid, to the point where we both know what each other wants and communication can happen with little nods or just sensing how the other one feels. As I mentioned earlier, the bulk of the work that we do happens way before the rehearsal process. We tend to go and jam with a piano or a guitar for a few weeks then take a phone recording of them. Then I take them away to obsessively listen to them and bring them back to the room with odd melody strands changed.

In the room, it’s pretty fluid. We both know what we want to achieve, so certainly for the first part of the process it’s pretty separate; I need to teach the music and the underscore and perhaps put a bass on an actor that’s never played, whilst he’ll work on the characters of the show and work out the world.

In the latter part we come together and start merging acting and music. That’s the fun bit, the making part. In shows that are completely underscored, I’m completely responsible for what the audience hears and, as a result, how the audience feels and Paul is in charge of what the audience sees. Ultimately, to steal Paul’s quote, we both need to make the story clear.

How does it feel to perform in the show, as well as compose and direct the music?

It’s fun! In my head they’re all quite separate. Certainly, now we’re in the run, the composition has pretty much stopped bar the odd slice of improvisation. A show like this is fun and rewarding to musically direct. It’s a show where anything can happen and that keeps the music alive. You can never relax and sometimes things don’t go the way you rehearse. I really get off on it being my responsibility to get out of tricky situations; it’s a hell of a feeling when you achieve it. To perform, it’s great. I get to sing, play lots of loud guitar and piano and essentially pretend to be a rockstar. I mean, there’s not a better job is there?

What does gig theatre mean from a music point of view?

I think the answer to this is pretty simple. Neither the text or the music should be able to live without each other. It’s very odd rehearsing just the music or just the text, as they both don’t sound quite right without each, maybe simplistic, but when you put it together this beautiful beast appears. Essentially the music is the beating heart of Luke’s words. It drives it when it needs to, sits back when we need to hear of the poetry of what is being said and occasionally takes over and hits you in the stomach to echo Luke’s thoughts and words.

It is, importantly, also the context of how the story is delivered. We make ‘gig theatre’ not because it’s cool to have some drums in it or to chuck a guitar in, we make it because it is Hull the best way to engage our audiences. People in Hull go to gigs, we want to tell stories. So we thought we’d slam them together and make this gig theatre thing.

See All We Ever Wanted Was Everything at the Bush Theatre until Saturday 24 November. Tickets are on sale now.
Lindsey Alvis

Lindsey Alvis takes over from Mungo Beaumont

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Lindsey Alvis

Lindsey Alvis

Middle Child executive director and joint chief executive, Mungo Beaumont, will today save his last spreadsheet and wave goodbye to his calculator for the final time, as he leaves the company that he helped found in 2011.

Artistic director Paul Smith now becomes the sole chief executive of Middle Child and Lindsey Alvis, formerly of Hull UK City of Culture 2017 and Headlong, has been appointed interim executive director. Lindsey starts on Monday 13 August.

After two years at the helm alongside Paul and with the company now established as a national portfolio organisation, Mungo is leaving to catch up on sleep and pursue new opportunities.

Mungo, a University of Hull drama graduate, is one of the founding members of Middle Child and originally joined as an actor. He then moved into producing and became executive director in 2017 as the company prepared for national portfolio status.

Mungo says: “It has been the greatest of honours playing a part in the founding and growth of Middle Child. I am so proud of what we have achieved over the last seven years. My thanks go to everyone who has played a part along the way, and in particular Paul, who has made this experience truly a joy.

“With him at the helm, alongside Lindsey, Jamie, Emily, the company members and our newly established board, I know that Middle Child will continue to flourish. I very much look forward to enjoying the next show from the crowd.”

Paul says: “Working with Mungo to establish Middle Child as a sustainable theatre company has been a huge privilege. He’s an incredible person with endless determination and is certain to be a success in whatever he chooses to do next.

“There’s no way we would be where we are today without Mungo’s dedication, focus and ingenuity. He has been a key part of everything we’ve done since our formation in 2011 and I’m delighted he will continue to contribute as a company member.”

A warm welcome to Lindsey Alvis

Lindsey joins Middle Child following two years with Hull UK City of Culture 2017 as a producer. Before that Lindsey produced at Liverpool Everyman & Playhouse theatres and touring company Headlong.

Lindsey said: “Having worked closely with Middle Child during Hull’s city of culture year, I am delighted to join the team as interim executive director. A leading voice within the city and nationally, Middle Child are creating vibrant, loud work at the forefront of popular culture, energising a new generation of audiences and artists to great industry acclaim and audiences’ enjoyment.

“I’m taking over from the brilliant Mungo Beaumont, who together with Paul has grown the company over the past seven years, most notably securing NPO status in 2018. I look forward to contributing to the next stage in the company’s development and can’t wait to get started.”

Paul added: “I’m very excited to begin working with Lindsey, who brings her vast experience and creative flair into the company. The future of this company is very bright and I can’t wait to work with Lindsey to make our huge ambitions a reality for the future.”

Emily Cox, centre. Photo: National Youth Theatre.

Hull actor Emily Cox awarded Career Kickstarter Fund

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Emily Cox, centre. Photo: National Youth Theatre.

Emily Cox, centre. Photo: National Youth Theatre.

Hull actor Emily Cox is the first person to be supported by the Middle Child Career Kickstarter Fund, designed to help new, working class actors get a foot on the acting career ladder.

The fund will pay for Emily’s Spotlight membership for a year and her first set of professional headshots. She will also benefit from one-to-one audition workshops with Middle Child artistic director, Paul Smith.

Emily first started acting during her GCSE and A Level drama courses, before spending time with the National Youth Theatre and taking part in a summer Acting to Camera course at the Central School of Speech and Drama. After a year of unsuccessful auditions she began studying as a nurse, before quitting her degree to focus again on acting.

She currently travels to London each week from Hull to participate in a Diploma in Acting at the Central School of Speech and Drama, which ends in August.

Emily said: “I’m really excited to be part of Middle Child’s Career Kickstarter Fund and it’s amazing that this support comes from a theatre company that is based in my home city. I’m looking forward to getting stuck in and seeing where this amazing opportunity takes me.”

She Productions awarded Middle Child Match Fund

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StorytEllas by She Productions

She Productions is the first Hull-based theatre company to receive match funding through Middle Child’s artist development programme, Reverb.

The company will receive £1,000 and support in-kind to fund their core running costs over three months as they develop their outreach work for communities in Hull and East Yorkshire.

Since forming in 2015, each of the company’s productions has been accompanied by a thematic, drama-based workshop programme.

These have included It’s Different For Girls consent and relationship workshops with vulnerable youth groups and ‘Man Up’ workshops, which focus on deconstructing the expectations of masculinity with a group of Pupil Premium male students.

She Productions’ outreach work comes at a time when nine out of 10 schools have cut back on lesson time, staff or facilities in at least one creative arts subject, according to a 2018 BBC survey.

This has seen teaching staff both locally and nationally teaching creative subjects that they are not trained in, including drama.

Ellie Claughton, She Productions producer, said: “She have been developing and producing workshops alongside each of our productions for the past four years.

“Outreach has always been at the core of our practice, so we are really excited to be supported by Middle Child in formalising this strand of our work.

“This funding will not only enable us to develop workshop programmes and build relationships with partner organisations, but to focus on identifying and reaching participants from across the area.”

Paul Smith, Middle Child artistic director, said: “We’re absolutely delighted to be able to support She Productions with both their organisational development and workshop programme, which will hugely benefit many young people in the city.

“We’re aware of how difficult it is to become sustainable in the first few years as a theatre company and hope our small cash injection can make a difference in what’s to come from She Productions in future.”

​The Reverb artist development programme is Middle Child’s commitment to ensuring that artists in Hull are given top-class development opportunities across disciplines without needing to leave the city.

Goodbye Europe

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Maureen Lennon, Paul Smith and Matthew May, on their way to Warsaw in April. Not pictured, Magda Moses.

One benefit of having national portfolio status with Arts Council England is the ability to plan productions far in advance. This includes starting work on a major new show that we’re creating for Hull in March 2019, on the subject of Brexit no less.

Hull voted overwhelmingly to leave the European Union in the referendum of June 2016, with 67.6% supporting the eventual result. The opportunity to perform a new piece of work, as we leave the EU, that asks questions of this decision fits perfectly with our aim of bringing people together for a good night out with big ideas in it. And they don’t get much bigger.

Hull is a port city with strong connections to the continent, including a large Polish community, who’ve been all but absent from mainstream conversations on the subject in the city. Hull has also undergone a transformation since the 2016 referendum, as the latest UK City of Culture. What might happen then if we take advantage of an increased appetite for arts and culture to hear different perspectives on Hull’s relationship to Brexit?

Our ambition is to bring together the people of Hull, including its Polish community, to enjoy a night of gig theatre in March 2019 that also challenges our understanding of such a divisive issue. The British Council shares that ambition and has kindly supported us in making two trips to Poland for research and development on the project, with a particular focus on understanding the status of theatre with Polish audiences. We’ve also been invited into the National Theatre’s studio for four days in August, to develop the first draft, which is incredibly exciting.

This week artistic director Paul Smith, associate artist and writer Maureen Lennon, associate artist James Frewer and dramaturg Matthew May are in Poznan, with board member Meg Miszczuk as our guide. We also travelled to Warsaw in mid-April, when Paul, Maureen and Matthew were joined by Magda Moses, who moved to Hull from Poland in 2008 and now works on community engagement in the arts in the city. Below are some of Magda, Maureen and Matthew’s thoughts on that earlier trip.

Magda Moses, adviser

“This trip was essential for Middle Child to produce an authentic and true show. To understand a foreign nation, the cultures and traditions that shape their national personality and identity, you have to become a part of their community and plunge yourselves into their reality.

“Theatre for Poles means a lot: tradition, sophistication, classicism, splendour, elegancy, but also normality, laughter, politics, childhood and family. I think watching three different performances in Warsaw theatres that were so different gave us a little taste of Polish theatre and their audiences.

Cezary Goes to War, an autobiographical piece directed by Cezary Tomaszewski, directly and cheerfully attacks and deconstructs the military rhetoric and nationalistic ethos in Poland. We also saw Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s Biesy, directed by Natalia Korczakowska, which used the theme of a rebellion against the tyrant to link it with the present political situation in Poland. We then rushed in the rain to watch a cabaret, Spiritual Show by Fire in Brothel, directed by Michal Walczak, a typically Polish show – lots of names from the history of Poland, specific Polish jokes, especially about the right and left wing, Catholic Church and modern political situation. Two other things that Paul and Matthew learnt were: 1) do not clap during the intervals and 2) do not try to order beer, as it’s prohibited in a theatre building and not posh enough.

“The Polish community in Hull is also very diverse and that makes their interests very different. Those who attended theatre back in Poland continue to do this here, however some have only started to go to the theatre recently as they have overcome the language barrier. What I can definitely say is, children are most important for Polish parents, so any child-friendly artistic event will draw their attention and build your audience.”

Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s Biesy, directed by Natalia Korczakowska

Maureen Lennon, writer

“We wanted the opportunity to dig a little deeper into what it’s like to come from one city to another, and whether we could glean anything about national character, culture and history, which might be able to play into our story. Also we heard Polish beer was really nice and we thought a few pints would probably help us get extra creative.

“We took part in a brilliant tour about communism in Warsaw, led by an incredibly friendly and knowledgeable guide, Artur (The Communist Warsaw Tour in a Retro Nysa Van; look it up if you go to Warsaw). This took us round buildings, past statues, into a locked-down museum with an exact replica of the inside of a flat and included a great game of Find the Vodka.

“It raised loads of interesting questions about the people who might be in our play, and the experiences and circumstances which formed them, about this country’s relationship with capitalism now, and how this compares to our own national identity. But mainly what has stayed with me is the driving. At one point we parked in the middle of a dual carriageway, but then as Magda said: “There are rules, it’s just we like to break them.”

“We also learned about how embarrassed English people are abroad. This time particularly about how little Polish we could speak and how many languages other people could speak. Magda converses fluently about everything in English and Polish. Artur could speak English, Russian, Polish and a made up language called Esperanto. At one point a driver demonstrated four different languages in one taxi ride. This isn’t something specific to Warsaw; I’m just pointing out – it’s embarrassing, isn’t it.

“Also I don’t mean to imply that we were just embarrassed by language; it spanned pretty much everything. I apologised to a man who knocked my suitcases over and Paul got into a particularly weird exchange about coffee outside a museum. We passed this off as an English thing, but maybe it’s just us? Who knows, either way whatever’s going on we’re embarrassed. Sorry.”

Matthew May, dramaturg

“If you get a chance to go to Warsaw, do so. It’s a great city, full of contrasts, culture and some excellent craft beer. I was speaking to my youth theatre group about my trip one Monday night and the thing that I wanted to impress on them is that theatre there matters. It is not necessarily better or bolder, though we did see some incredible and some incredibly confusing work, but it feels more tied up in the fabric of the city. The act of making work feels far more political.

“Paul and I attended an Emergency Briefing on Polish Theatre, where Polish directors, festival curators, actors and artists discussed the increasingly difficult political landscape in which they find themselves trying to make work. They face pickets, economic censorship and, in one case, the loss of employment. This meeting took place in a city that until 1989 was under Communist rule and was essentially destroyed towards the end of the Second World War. This is a city where the history and the politics of its past are writ large in the buildings and the people.

​“So, for me as the political dramaturg on this project it acted as a reminder than throughout the creative process we can never forget the vastly different place that Poland has come from. We can not understand the drives of these people if we see them purely through the prism of our own experiences. That is what I will try and take from this trip; well, that and a love for pierogi.”

Get involved

Did you vote leave, or do you know friends, family or colleagues who did, who also live in Hull? We’d love to hear from you and them, so have put together a five to ten minute online survey using Google Forms.

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