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We’re going quiet now so we can make more noise in future

By | Uncategorised

Paul Smith, Artistic Director & CEO

No-one teaches you this, do they? There aren’t any Open University courses on running a theatre company in a pandemic. I couldn’t find any TedTalks on ‘how to smash socially distanced theatre’, or Buzzfeed articles on the ’55 Inspiring Things Artists of the Past Did During Global Health Crises’. It’s a thing we all say all the time – “I’m just making it up as I go along” – but it feels like it’s never been truer than right now, during All This

So what do you do when you’re lost? You follow your instincts, you listen to others and you try to make the best of things. So that’s what we’ve been trying to do here at Middle Child during the last few months, and what we will keep doing as we move forward.

Both organisations and individuals are having to make impossible decisions throughout our sector, treading the line between staying afloat and offering hope. Teetering between crisis and optimism. Imagining how we can change the world while trying to make sure we’re around to be a part of it. In truth, it feels that there are no right or wrong answers to be found, only choices to be made. 

As for us, we’ve made the difficult decision to furlough our remaining core staff from Friday 29th May until at least the first week of August, meaning a temporary pause on our public-facing activity for the first time in our nine-year history. We’re going to be going quiet for a bit so we can come back and make more noise long into the future. It’s not an easy decision and it comes with a sense of guilt and shame – should we be doing more? Should we be more innovative? More creative? Possibly. Or perhaps we should have gone quiet a long time ago, when All This first started. Then there’s the unavoidable question of privilege. There’s absolutely no doubt we’re in a privileged position, even being able to take a pause and take advantage of the government’s furlough scheme. Sadly, there’s a privilege in even being able to think about the future. We know that and we feel the weight of that. But the choice we’ve made is to use that privileged position to ensure we’re able to pay artists and employ freelancers long into the future. 

We have made this choice because what we do best involves people being together. Whether it’s the shows themselves, our artist development programme, our theatre library or our various social events, our reason to exist is to bring people together in a physical space to think about what it means to be human. We’ve always prioritised liveness at our events, seeing theatre as a social event – a rare opportunity to fully be together in an increasingly digital world. And naive as it may be, we’re not rushing to compromise on that just yet.  There are many brilliant companies who make incredible digital work. We are not one of them. And so we’re taking this privileged opportunity to stop. To think, reflect and hold. To not rush and to listen to what the world and the communities we work with need now. 

But I should be clear – this is not a complete stop for our company. For while our core staff go on furlough, Middle Child’s preparation for the future continues. We’re putting money into artists pockets and faith into their ideas, giving them time and space to imagine the theatre they want to make in future. Because we will come back. And when we do we’re going to make sure we’re taking risks on the new, the progressive, the unknown. Because where we’re going there’s no doubt we’re going to need ideas, we’re going to need fire and fight and passion and politics. We’re going to need artists, actors, producers, stage managers, designers, technicians, and all of the other freelancers that make this industry great. Because for us, right now, that feels like all we can do. Having lost our two major projects this year we’re reclaiming 2020/21 as a year to do what we can in the short-term in order to be able to take a breath and listen to what people need in the long-term. 

So what does this mean for us practically? What did we do in a pandemic? What are we planning to do next? Take a look at the below – presented without comment and see what you think, and remember we followed our instincts and made it up as we went along. Maybe one day in the future this blog post can be featured on a crisis management Buzzfeed article for ADs of the future to critique and contemplate.

Things We Did In The Short Term

  • We cancelled/postponed our new show There Should Be Unicorns.
  • We cancelled/postponed our tour of The Canary and the Crow.
  • We’ve setup this open access Dropbox folder containing useful resources for companies and individuals.
  • We pushed a 2021 project into 2022 but increased the commission size from under 70 minutes to over 70 minutes, increasing the scale and ambition.
  • We posted an archive recording of both All We Ever Wanted Was Everything and Us Against Whatever.
  • We released Us Against Whatever on Spotify.
  • We created a DIY panto for people to do at home.
  • We setup a GoFundMe, inspired by Luke Barnes, which – thanks to the kindness of friends and strangers – raised £6,520 for Hull freelancers who’s income was affected by Covid-19. 
  • We scheduled eight free Zoom Q&A’s on various aspects of theatre making and production.
  • We honoured the contracts of freelancers, making sure we fully paid those who were already working with us.
  • We furloughed our staff and agreed to top their wages up to 100%
  • We created a Mental Health while on furlough policy, which made a number of pledges to furloughed staff
  • We cancelled our scheduled Acting Gym workshops, deciding to wait until we can do them face-to-face rather than putting them online.
  • We ran two online pub quizzes.
  • We carried on writing music for our new show virtually.
  • We moved our Concrete Retreat Writer Residency programme and offered everyone involved early payment in full if required, as well as giving them the option to use their £200 research fund to pay themselves if they were in need.
  • We posted Tom Wells’ brilliant writers exercises online for free.
  • We commissioned a number of writers to write a short 10-minute response to the current situation, to be performed in-person when it is safe to do so at an event called Our Radical Future.
  • We moved rehearsals for Out Loud our scratch night with our resident company, Silent Uproar – online, with the event being broadcast live on Radio Humberside. We paid all of the actors and writers to take part.
  • Along with Hull Truck and RTYDS we worked with Annabel Streeton on the first part of her directing placement, focusing on everything you do before you get into a rehearsal room.
  • We pondered digital output and decided that’s not what we’re good at.
  • We opened our submission window and asked writers to submit an existing piece of writing so we can get to know new people.
  • We hired a team of local artists to read scripts for us.
  • We put aside a pot of money as a development fund for people we meet through that submission window.
  • We invested time in the things we always say there isn’t enough time to do. 
  • We tidied the Google Drive.
  • We worked on an action plan and family friendly working policy with PIPA (Parents In the Performing Arts).
  • We contributed in a small way to the New Diorama’s brilliant North Star project, helping individuals with their first-time funding applications.
  • We developed our Mental Health Policy and our Working from Home policy.
  • We created a fundraising strategy for the future.
  • We finally became a charity.
  • We talked with and listened to local artists and freelancers.
  • We talked with and listened to our founding members as we do all we can to ensure Middle Child comes out of this okay.
  • We talked with and listened to other local organisations in the Cultural Collisions working group to share best practice and plan for the future
  • We talked with and listened to the Arts Council and our brilliant relationship manager.
  • We watched digital theatre and chatted about it with local artists and freelancers.
  • We commissioned writers to develop a treatment for a future idea.
  • We commissioned writers to begin developing a full show for us at some unknown point in the future.
  • We decided not to apply for the Arts Council’s Emergency Fund.
  • We had a board meeting on Zoom.
  • We welcomed a new board member from a finance background.
  • We re-forecasted each of our budgets for the next four years.
  • We paid the Roaring Girls a day rate to organise a Hull theatre-sector meet-up to discuss the ongoing situation.

Things We Want To Do In The Long Term

  • We want to listen better to understand how we can work together to build a better industry after All This is over
  • We still want to champion and commission the new, the progressive, the unknown
  • We want to continue to ‘take risks’ and not rely on the established or the traditional
  • We don’t want to close ranks
  • We want to adapt what needs to be adapted and protect what needs to be protected
  • We want to better serve our local community of artists and audiences, and listen to what they need now rather than make assumptions
  • We want to re-open our building but only when it is safe to do so
  • We want to relaunch our projects but only when it is safe to do so
  • We want to work out what our function is in the post-COVID world and how we can spend public money in the best way possible
  • We will check our privilege
  • We want to do what we can to support other arts organisations and individuals in need.
  • We will continue to fight for a fairer and more representative industry
  • We’ll make sure our audiences and artists are kept up to date with our plans to return, as we hope to be able to bring us back together with a collection of new commissions from a number of brilliant writers imagining Our Radical Future.
  • (We cannot wait for that day and to see you all again soon.)

So there it is. A list of what we did, and what we hope to do in future. There’s also an invisible list there somewhere of the things we didn’t do. 

I want to reiterate a few things. 

As a company, we’ve done what we think is right at this moment, and are in no doubt that the rest of our sector is doing the same. But it’s worth recognising that there are no easy answers here and we’re all having to hope that our best is good enough as we move into an unknown future. Our best is prioritising putting money in artists’ pockets and faith in artists’ ideas, because there’s one thing we’re certain of – we’ll be back, and we’ll be ready for the fight.

(While we’re away we’ve repurposed our What’s On page to include everything that’s available digitally. Check it out here)

Photo by Holly Robinson

Youth representation on the Middle Child board

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Fiona Hope, board member

Last year I was given the amazing opportunity to join the board of trustees for Middle Child. I had lots of chats with artistic director Paul and executive director Lindsey about what it means to be on the board and the kind of responsibilities that entails, but I still wasnt entirely sure what to expect walking into the first meeting.

Being only nineteen, with little professional experience, it was extremely daunting walking into a room of such incredible talent, but I was so quickly taken under everybodys wing and shown that my view as a young person was so important to the company. Middle Child are all about developing young artists in Hull and one of their target audiences is people aged between 18- 34, which is a demographic I fit into and can hopefully share insight to.

Over the past few years Ive begun to develop my understanding of how theatre works behind the scenes, as my ambition is to start a theatre company once I graduate from university. Previously I had only experienced the creative side of theatre, such as performing and directing. However joining the board for Middle Child has let me learn about running a company in a hands-on way, as well as mean I can give back to the company.

Conversations in board meetings have included talking about the goals and targets set by the company and what steps are being taken to grow and develop, such as how funding is applied for and used, and what they are doing to reach audiences and develop artists. These meetings have taught me about different bands of funding, audience engagement methods and how to not just keep a company running, but also be innovative and successful.

In particular, before attending a meeting I had no idea about finance and production but Rozzy, who is Lindsey’s maternity cover, went over everything so calmly and in detail, which was so useful and beneficial. Some of the things I have learnt about are fundraising, Arts Council applications, budgeting and cashflow forecasts. With Middle Child having been awarded NPO status Paul and Lindsey also explained what this means for funding and why the board is so crucial in maintaining this status.

Since joining the board, I have directed a show for a local theatre company She Productions, had a show at the Edinburgh fringe festival and completed some smaller projects at University. My experience on the board of trustees definitely helped me with these projects as I have a better understanding of the wider picture of theatre making and how to resolve some production issues should they arise, such as where sacrifices need to be made for the sake of the budget. I am still learning so much every meeting and am so grateful for the experience that I know I will use in the future to develop my career in theatre. 

Saucepan from Wikimedia Commons

Playwriting with Tom Wells #3: Dialogue and Scenes

By | Artist Development, Playwriting with Tom Wells, Uncategorised

By Tom Wells, associate artist

This week’s topics are Dialogue and Scenes. We’ll have a look at the way people talk to each other in real life, the way characters talk to each other on stage, and the way this can be shaped into a scene that feels sparky, energetic and alive. We’ll start gently, though, with a bit of Gogglebox.

Exercise One

Here is a clip of Giles and Mary from Gogglebox, talking about Clapping for Carers:

And here is a transcript of their conversation:

Mary shows Giles a film clip on her phone.

GILES: If I had known that I was allowed to bang a saucepan with a spoon, I would’ve definitely got a sauce-

Mary laughs.

Mary I would’ve loved to bang a saucepan.

Mary is crying a bit. She takes her glasses off, wipes her eyes.

MARY: Joseph said it was very moving.

GILES: Yeah, now, steady Mary. Steady.

MARY: It was.

GILES: Don’t… At this stage of the day don’t get upset. But if I’d known I was allowed to bang a spoon, Mary –

Mary blinks.

– against a, a copper pan, I would, just like Bez, there’s something very satisfy –

Mary laughs.

– satisfying about doing that. Especially if someone else is doing it at the other end of the village.

MARY: Yeah, yeah well we’ll do that next week, it’s going to be every week apparently.

GILES: Is it?

MARY: Yeah I think so.

GILES: What every week a…? Mary.

Mary sobs.

MARY: Yes.

 

The first exercise is to have a go at doing this yourself. Record a conversation, a real-life conversation, just a short exchange (ten lines or so) between two people, and do your best to write it down accurately. Don’t be tempted to correct it or change it to make it clearer or to give it different grammar. Just write it exactly as you hear it. If you don’t have a way of recording people at home then try doing it with a clip from Gogglebox. There’s lots to choose from on their Twitter feed.

This will take a while, but it’s really worth doing. Listen to the exchange a number of times as you go along. Pause it and restart it. Do your best to record all the little details of their speech.

Once you’ve finished, have a read. Look closely at it. Look at the pauses, the repetitions, the strange punctuation, the rhythms and the music of it, the way mistakes and mispronunciations – and silence, things unsaid – add a warmth and depth of meaning to real-life speech. Those are the things we are doing and hearing all the time, they’re the things that make dialogue feel alive and characters feel truthful when they speak. They’re the things to bear in mind when you’re writing dialogue of your own.

Exercise Two

The idea behind this exercise is to understand the difference between two people speaking to each other in real life and two people speaking in a dramatic scene. In real life, two people talking can be funny or truthful or to the point or beautifully observed, but it can often feel as if nothing is actually happening. Two people talk, but everything stays the same. Dialogue between characters on stage is quite different to this. It’s most interesting if it’s active, if it feels like there’s something at stake or something might change, if one of the characters wants something, and the other character can help them get it or get in their way. It’s useful to have a go at writing this.

So, to begin with, we’ll revisit the lucky dip objects from last week. Pick one of these:

  • a key
  • a phone
  • some chilli flakes
  • a pound coin
  • a box of juice
  • some painkillers
  • a screwdriver
  • a stamp
  • a condom
  • a safety pin
  • a Kitkat

and give it to Character A. Imagine it is the thing that Character B needs more than anything at this moment. Have a go at writing the dialogue between the two characters as Character B tries to get the thing from Character A. Think about the sort of strategies which Character B might use to try and get it. Write an exchange where they have three separate gos. You can give them names if it makes things easier. Don’t overthink it though. Just have a go. Spend about ten minutes writing it. And, once you’re done, have a read of it.

It’s just a quick exercise, and the truth is it might not be a very realistic set-up (it’s not often a person will try three different ways of convincing someone to give them a safety pin). But hopefully, in its simple way, it shows you some of the differences between talking, which passes the time, and dialogue, which is always trying to make stuff happen. Hopefully you’ve started to feel the need for dialogue to be an active thing, to have the potential for changing the situation between characters on stage. Fingers crossed that’ll be helpful in this week’s last exercise.

 

Exercise Three

This exercise is about balance. The first thing to think about is to crafting a scene that feels alive and exciting for people to watch, with one character trying to get something from the other, while things keep getting in their way, like you did in Exercise Two. The second thing to think about is making sure the characters speak in authentic-sounding, believable dialogue, a bit like the detailed real-life transcripts you made in Exercise One. It’s worth spending a bit of time on balancing these two things. Once you crack it the writing properly sings.

Think of two characters you’re interested in writing. Think about something one character might want from the other. It might be as simple as a Kitkat, like the lucky dip objects, but it might also be something that can’t be held in their hand – forgiveness, for example, or to be listened to, or to be left alone, or a kiss. Think about the things stopping them or getting in their way. They might be obstacles caused by the other character or the outside world, but they can also come from within – it’s a very human and recognisable thing for a character to be their own worst enemy, because of stubbornness or shyness, hotheadedness or self-doubt.

Now you have a sense of the workings of the scene and who the characters are, spend a bit of time thinking about the way the characters speak to one another. Do they find it easy? Are they a bit hesitant, or do they overshare? Are they scared to ask for the thing, worrying about potential conflict? Are they a bit demanding, quick to argue, not very good at keeping calm? Do they avoid talking about the things they really want to talk about? Do they miss out words, or get them wrong, or lose momentum so their sentences trail off? Do they speak before thinking, lash out a bit, interrupt each other? What else do they do alongside talking? Picture the situation in your head.

Now, have a go at writing the scene. It doesn’t have to be long. Show one character trying to get the thing they want from the other. Try to make the dialogue sound truthful and authentic. By the end of the scene, even if it is a tiny thing, something should have changed. Compare it to the transcript you wrote of a real-life conversation. You will start to get a sense in your own writing of what it is that makes a scene dramatic.

Feel free to share your writing with us on social media: simply tag @middlechildhull on either Twitter, Instagram or Facebook.

Out Loud Darleys

Applications open for our second Hull scratch night

By | Uncategorised
Out Loud Darleys

After a hugely successful first scratch night last month, held in partnership with Silent Uproar and supported by Richard Bean, Out Loud returns on Saturday 9 May.

This time the sharing will take place upstairs at Hull Truck Theatre, as part of this year’s Grow Festival and ahead of our homecoming performance of The Canary and the Crow.

Free tickets for the night will go on sale nearer the time, but in the meantime we need writers and, once again, we are looking for four fifteen-minute excerpts to perform script-in-hand.

Anything goes form and content-wise, but we are particualrly interested in stories about Hull and the north. We can only accept scripts that can be performed by no more than four performers.

How to apply

Please send a sample of no more than 10 pages of your script to jamie@middlechildtheatre.co.uk before 10am on Monday 23 March.

Names will be removed from scripts and passed to Middle Child artistic director, Paul Smith, and Silent Uproar artistic director, Alex Mitchell, to be read anonymously.

All applicants will hear whether they have been selected or not by Friday 24 April.

Casting Call

Casting call for new Middle Child show by Luke Barnes

By | Uncategorised

A collaboration between Middle Child, Luke Barnes and the Beats Bus, THERE SHOULD BE UNICORNS pushes the apex of familiarity and innovation by being a young person’s story told via hip hop and dance for the outdoor circuit.

It’s set in Hull. It’s for Everyone. Mums. Dads. Nans. Grampas. Kids.  This is a family show which asks the question: “How can we be good when we’re so caught up in what’s bad?” It tells the story of a young girl who decides to overthrow capitalism armed only with a BMX and an unshakeable belief in Unicorns.

Formally it’s a concept album designed for large spaces. It is designed for movement to fill the space and storytelling to be the central form of communication. We are looking for an exciting company of collaborators who will dance, story tell, sing and play music. Occasionally they’ll speak lines.

Roles

We are looking for performers aged 18 and above who can play the following roles:

JASMINE (f) 10-years old. A thoughtful girl who is kind and peaceful. She’s family orientated and loves to work and play, with a curious zest for the world. To her it is huge and full of wonder.

ANITA (f) Also 10-years old. Best friends with Jasmine.

GEORGINA (f) Jasmine’s 17-year-old sister.

THE UNICORN (m) A dancing unicorn.

DAD (m) Jasmine’s Dad. Works hard.

MR POTTER / BIG DUNC (m) Jasmine’s Dad’s Boss / Georgina’s Boyfriend.

Auditions will take place in Hull on 4th February and in London on 6th February. All performers who audition will receive a yes or no answer.

For more details, including pay and accommodation, what to expect in auditions, rehearsal and tour dates download the full casting call (PDF).

UPDATE (5th JAN 2020): This casting call is now closed.

Daniel Ward - The Canary and the Crow

Daniel Ward shortlisted for Writers’ Guild Award

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Daniel Ward - The Canary and the Crow

The Canary and the Crow writer, Daniel Ward, has been shortlisted for a prestigious Writers’ Guild Award in the Best Play for Young Audiences category.

The Canary and the Crow is Daniel’s debut play, a semi-autobiographical story about a working class black kid who goes to a posh grammar school.

Daniel also stars in the show as the lead character, The Bird.

It debuted in Hull in July 2019, before going down a storm at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe in August, where it won the Brighton Fringe Award for Excellence and was shortlisted for a Total Theatre Award.

Daniel is nominated alongside Mike Kenny for Like Water For Goldfish and Nessah Muthy for Small Wonders.

The winner will be announced at on Monday 13th January 2020 at the Royal College of Physicians in central London.

You can next see The Canary and the Crow when it transfers to the Arcola Theatre in London, from 16th January – 8th February 2020.

Beauty and the Beast - Hull's Rock'n'Roll Pantomime - 2018

The Little Mermaid charity ticket giveaway

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Beauty and the Beast - Hull's Rock'n'Roll Pantomime - 2018

Every year at Middle Child we giveaway free tickets to Hull-based charities and community groups for our rock and roll pantomime, to share a little festive spirit around those people who may not otherwise get to enjoy a Christmas show.

As it’s almost that time of year we are once again looking for charities and community groups to invite to this year’s production, The Little Mermaid.

We have 150 tickets to share this year, partly funded by our incredibly generous panto audience, who donate their spare pennies on the door. Tickets are available for our family and adult-only shows from the 21st-24th December, as well as our BSL-interpreted performances on 27th December and our Polish-described performance on 28th December.

If you’re from a local charity or group, or you’d like to nominate one, who you think would love to attend a free show, drop us an email to jamie@middlechildtheatre.co.uk or reach us on social media. Tickets are extremely limited and we can only offer them on a first come, first served basis, so do get in touch quick!

 

Wrestleverse Chapter One - Simon Herring - 1

“He’s behind you! And he’s got a broom wrapped in barbed wire!”

By | Uncategorised
Wrestleverse Chapter One - Simon Herring - 1

Wrestleverse 1: The Portal Opens, at Tower Ballroom in Hull, November 2019. Photo by Simon Herring.

Middle Child company member and panto dame, Marc Graham, writes about one of the most popular forms of storytelling and theatre: wrestling.

“A showman par excellence,” exclaims The Promoter as the outsider makes his entrance. Music blares, his costume glitters in the lights, women scream. He’s cocky, he’s arrogant, he thinks he’s sexy.

“The ladies love him, no doubt about that,” calls The Promoter as the performer lets two screeching teenage fans mob him. A 13 year old boy thrusts a plastic action figure into the face of this Heartbreaker, who takes it from the boy and drops it into his pants. The girls scream, the boy is disgusted, our Heartbreaker throws it back to the boy, and parts the two teenage girls with a kiss before entering Centre Stage. There’s a mixed reaction from the 11,000 strong audience. Fireworks erupt as he hits his signature pose. A few boos rain down. This isn’t his home turf; this is unfamiliar territory and it isn’t going to be his night.

Our Villain is established.

A brief silence befalls the crowd that September night in 1997.

Rule Britannia blasts through the PA. 11,000 people roar in unison. A man draped in a Union Jack makes his way down the Vom and he’s not alone. He’s accompanied by a woman, but she’s not a valet. She’s his sister, who, we are quickly informed, has been battling cancer her whole life. Tonight is dedicated to her. She joins her whole family, sitting front and centre. This man is big, powerful, a juggernaut. He wears European Gold around his waist and he is British, through and through.

We have Our Hero.

The show begins. Our Villain is outmatched for power in every early exchange. Our Hero grows in confidence and the sold out crowd are fully behind him, roaring at every moment that goes his way. The crowd begins to believe, even though some may have noticed Our Hero sporting a knee brace, but it is no cause for concern, everything is going to plan. Our Hero lifts his opponent over his head in a Gorilla Press, carries him to the edge of the ring and feigns as if to throw him stage right, then stage left. The Official seems worried and stops it happening, three times, before Our Hero unceremoniously dumps Our Villain on to the springed boards behind him, the safer option no less humiliating for Our Villain.

Our Hero is in full control. Occasionally he checks his knee, but he is firing on all cylinders. Our Villain is in real trouble here and it won’t be long before we’re all safely tucked up in our beds with beautiful memories of what we collectively witnessed in our own back garden.

“The advantage is with the Hero. He’s got the strength, he’s got the stamina, he’s got the advantage of all these home-town fans, he’s got his family here, including his sister, who he’s dedicated this match to, he cannot lose this,” The Promotor reminds the millions of subjects watching around the globe, but the crowd in this National Mecca are unable to hear.

A small fear creeps in as Our Villain gets back into this contest. But we needn’t have worried, as Our Hero hikes Our Villain into the air, pauses for 10 seconds allowing blood to rush to his head before bringing him down in freefall. A vintage move. Until…

The curtain flutters, a light is shone upon it. A suited stranger to these proceedings enters the fray, a player who is certainly not welcome here. This mysterious tall, dark and somewhat ravishing man quickly distracts the Official, trippingly on the apron. Our Hero stumbles into an unlit area of the stage and his face meets an exposed steel pillar courtesy of the Ravishing One, right in front of his family. The atmosphere darkens. Two boys from the crowd reach through the Fourth Wall to assure Our Hero he’s still loved. Our Hero is in trouble here, but despite the deck being stacked against him, he’s still putting up a big fight; he’s battling well, the home crowd spurring him on. There’s light at the end of this tunnel yet.

Our Hero with Our Author, Marc Graham 

Because of that…

The curtain twitches again. This time two more Unwelcome figures come forward. The crowd are familiar with these two: a man and a woman, the former born into unimaginable privilege, the latter quite simply the 9th Wonder of the World.

Despite all of this Our Hero gets a second wind, giving it all he has. Against these odds he is triumphing. Our Hero hoists Our Villain up. We’ve seen this before, a move there is no coming back from, here we go! Wait a minute: the Ravishing One has grabbed Our Hero’s leg, preventing him from carrying out the move! There’s an altercation. The Official is distracted by the two Unwelcome figures. Behind the Official’s back Our Hero lifts Our Villain up again, this time outside the safety of the ring but no! No! Our Hero slips, catches his leg, the knee in the brace, between the barrier and the ring. Our Hero collapses in a heap and Our Villain re-enters, Centre Stage, pulling the Official with him. Our Hero, trapped, is at the mercy of the Unwelcome, who ram the Fourth Wall  into his knee. The gallant crowd try to prize the Fourth Wall  back to help Our Hero, but there is no matching the strength of the Unwelcome. This is really bad. An angry nine year old is told to stay away by an adult. He is foaming at the mouth, eager to jump the rail and enter to save Our Hero.

Because of that…

Our Hero is thrown back onto stage. Our Villain removes Our Hero’s knee brace AND THROWS IT INTO THE FACE OF HIS WIFE AND CANCER-BATTLING SISTER IN THE FRONT ROW.

Our Villain applies the Figure-Four Leg Lock, a hold so devastating it has injured countless children on school playgrounds across the land. The crowd are standing, shocked, broken, nails-bitten. Some children are crying; some adults are crying.

“Our Hero is screaming in pain, his mouth is bleeding, Our Villain has the figure-four!” The Promoter exalts.

Our Villain illegally reaches for one of the Unwelcome, adding more leverage, more pressure, more pain to the hold on Our Hero. The Official cannot see this. His main concern is for Our Hero, who’s never been in so much pain. The Unwelcome surround the stage. The Official can not possibly see everything now, the story is not supposed to end like this.

Until eventually…

Our Hero doesn’t quit, but the Official stops the show. There’s confusion, a bell rings, we didn’t see Our Hero quit, Our Villain is calling for someone to hand him the Gold, people are booing, they begin to throw debris onto the stage, empty food packets, piss in plastic cups.

The Announcer states: “The winner of this contest and New Eur-”

A cacophony of boos fill the Mecca, the Announcer is hit with debris and his announcement cut short. The European Gold he entered with will be going home with Our Villain. Rubbish from all angles flies towards the ring.

The contest is over. Our Villain grabs a microphone.

One Night Only - Wrestling

“Alright, all you Limeys. I want you to take a look at your champion and then take a look at the new Grand Slam winner. Hart family, this is for you. And Diana Smith, my sweetheart, this one is especially for you, baby.”

Our Villain, The Heartbreak Kid, Shawn Michaels, applies the figure-four again to Our Hero, Davey Boy Smith, affectionately known as The British Bulldog. The Privileged One shoves the microphone into the face of Our Hero: “Scream for your country. Scream for your country, Bulldog! Come on!”

The stage strewn with debris from the crowd, his wife enters the stage with the knee brace and chokes Our Villain with it, releasing Our Hero from the hold.

Our Villain and the Unwelcome begin to leave. This is a chaotic scene. They are jubilant as their Symphony  plays and Our Villain is carried out by his minions, holding his new European gold up high. Inciting a riot is absolutely what they did on this night in Birmingham. Every bit of debris that hits them on their way out they take in their stride. They’re spat on, abused, physically hit when they get too close to the crowd. They flaunt at the top of the ramp and cockily bat away bottles that are on target to hit their faces.

Our Hero has fallen. He is hurt, he remains centre stage, his wife in tears by his side. Those who aren’t full of rage in the crowd are shedding a tear, but no one can bare to leave. This can’t be how it ends? Can it? In our own back garden we’ve witnessed the fall of our only hope, not one person will sleep peacefully tonight, this anger will permeate for decades to come.

This was pure Theatre.

A tragedy. This match alone a five act structure.

This match happened at WWF’s One Night Only at the Birmingham NEC, 20th September 1997. An event both Middle Child artistic director, Paul Smith, and myself were at. We also both agree: this was one of the greatest theatrical events we’ve ever seen.

This year Equity recognised Professional Wrestling for the first time.

“Professional wrestlers are highly skilled performers deserving of recognition and the support that Equity, the union for the entertainment industry, can provide. Professional wrestling combines aspects of acting, dance, physical theatre and circus […] The work is precarious, often low paid and physically demanding. Equity believes wrestlers are entitled to the same protections and entitlements that other professional performers experience at work and it is our ambition to engage with promoters across the UK to achieve this.

This is good. However an announcement like this would once have been met with derision. Wrestling once held a fiercely guarded secret: that wrestling wasn’t real. This was a secret so heavily guarded that real life brothers Owen and Bret Hart, when feuding in 1994, were never allowed to be seen in public together. They even had to leave the arena in different cars. That’s like Cinderella and her Evil Stepmother not being allowed to be seen in the bar together after the show. That’s commitment.

Above is Dr Schultz’ thoughts. Pure method acting, he doesn’t break character for a second. This was something he was allegedly told to do by his boss, Vince McMahon, and then when he did it he legit got fired for it. Irish wrestler Dave Finlay used to dislocate the thumb of anyone who dared to ask him if he wrestling was fake.

Question: Isn’t it all fake?

The physical damage is real. Each move requires a taxing physicality from both wrestlers. Falling repeatedly on your head, back, shoulder, coccyx takes its toll. Falling 15ft onto concrete, ladders, flaming tables, barbed wire, razor blades, breeze blocks, light tubes, broken glass, steel and plastic chairs, also take its toll. Let’s equate this to an actor in a stage fight every night, falling on the same elbow over and over. You’re gonna need an elbow pad. Or the physical toll a dance takes on a performer. Unfortunately, wrestlers have lost their lives in the ring. Things do go wrong: necks, backs, knees. Surgery is an occupational hazard and as long as that list is, it’s not quite as long as the list of wrestlers that die from heart attack before they turn 65 or have severe lifelong head trauma as a result of multiple concussions.

The schedule is relentless – often wrestling six times a week in six different towns. And you drive yourself in between. Ever toured in a van?

Sometimes it is absolutely real: look up the Montreal Screwjob. Jobs, livings and livelihoods were lost. Never have one too many beers and think about stepping into the ring with wrestlers, it doesn’t end well.

Question: Is it scripted who is to win and lose?

Yes. It is. However, wrestlers get to the top of the game because they have deserved to get there, with the exception of Roman Reigns and John Cena. The years of sacrifice and struggle, the countless hours of training they put into crafting their character, promos or talking into the microphone are as vital to professional wrestling as work in the ring.

Question: Isn’t it for kids?

Sometimes. Wrestling goes through stages. In the 1990s no, absolutely not, and that’s why many other kids and I loved it. Then in the 2000s mainstream wrestling went through a PG period, which resulted in some of the most dull and boring bouts you’ve ever seen.

There is also a panto thing going on. Some is for kids, some is for adults and it goes over the kids’ heads. There is a beautiful moment when you realise this in adolescence and the thrill of it now is, if they can still do moves that make adults wince, despite everything we consume about its theatrical nature, then that is magic. That is really no different to being moved by a performance or a beautiful moment in theatre – we all know it’s not real. I believe it’s called the suspension of belief/disbelief.

Question: Isn’t the acting terrible?

Sometimes yes, but tell me you’ve never been to the theatre and had the same thought.

Here’s one of the best:

Question: Isn’t it violent?

It’s hilarious too, watch this:

But yes also incredibly violent. The following video features the highest paid actor in the world right now. It’s also difficult to watch, knowing what we now do about head injuries.

Question: Are wrestlers better at stage combat? Specifically knaps?

Yes…

But seriously here’s the best knap in the game.

Question: Is it a struggle to break down the (fourth) wall?

Search for any promo from Chris Jericho.

Question: Does wrestling reach wider and more diverse audiences?

No doubt.

Wrestlers are a very real embodiment of “Find something you love and let it kill you.” When we say that we should be reminded of this: they sacrifice their health and well being for their audience. For that you have to respect them.

Try something for me? Next time you see some theatre try saying to the person next to you at the end of the show: “It’s all fake you know?” Let me know their response.

Wooooooooooooooooooo!

See Marc Graham as Pattie Breadcake in The Little Mermaid from 19-29th December, where he may try some figure-four leg locks – when the director isn’t looking. 

Glossary

Vom – Entrance ramp
Centre Stage – The ring
Stage Left – Outside the ring to the left
Stage Right – Outside the ring to the right
The Promoter – The commentator
Fourth Wall – The safety rail
The Official – Referee
Our Hero, The Face – Wrestling term for ‘Good Guy’
Our Villain, The Heel – Wrestling term for ‘Bad Guy’
The Unwelcome – Outside interference
The Privileged One – A wrestler known as Hunter Hearst Helmsley aka HHH
The Ravishing One – A wrestler known as Ravishing Rick Rude
The 9th Wonder of the World – A female wrestler known as Chyna
European Gold – WWF European Heavyweight Champion title
National Mecca – Birmingham NEC
The Announcer – Ring announcer
Symphony – Theme music
WWF – World Wrestling Federation aka WWE
Part of the story line – Kayfabe
Woooooooooooooo – Ric Flair’s famous catchphrase

Join us for a Polish-described performance of The Little Mermaid this Christmas

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Middle Child are pleased to announce an integrated, Polish-described performance of our pantomime, The Little Mermaid, in Hull this Christmas. 

A Polish performer will join the cast on stage at Jubilee Central as a Polish-speaking fairy who narrates the show for the benefit of the city’s large Polish community. 

The performance follows Middle Child’s production of Us Against Whatever, in association with Hull Truck Theatre and Liverpool Everyman & Playhouse, which included Polish characters, dialogue and captioning. 

Paul Smith, artistic director of Middle Child, said: “We know there are many Polish families in Hull looking for theatre experiences to enjoy together and our pantomimes make for great nights out at Christmas. 

“We’re really excited to make our rock and roll panto even more accessible and welcome our Polish-speaking neighbours to the show.” 

Edyta Budnik, who starred in Us Against Whatever, plays the Polish-speaking fairy.  

Nastazja Somers, who collaborated with writer Maureen Lennon on Us Against Whatever, is working on the Polish parts of Paul Smith’s script. 

The performance will take place on Saturday 28th December at 6pm. Other accessible performances include BSL interpretation on Friday 27th December at 6pm and 10pm.

Tickets are on sale now via our website or by calling the box office, supplied by Hull Truck Theatre, on 01482 323638.

Little Mermaid Hull Pantomime Cast

Meet the cast of The Little Mermaid, our rock and roll pantomime

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Can you believe Christmas is next month? That means our rock and roll pantomime is too, so it’s time we announced the super talented cast of The Little Mermaid, performing at Jubilee Central in Hull from 19th-29th December.

Alice Beaumont - Hull Pantomime Cast

Alice Beaumont

Jack Chamberlain

Alice Beaumont, a Middle Child panto legend, turns to the good side this year to star as Ariel, our hero in search of adventure from beneath the Humber.

Jack Chamberlain, who starred as the Beast last year, plays Herman Hermit, a crab who is under strict direction to only move sideways throughout the show.

James Frewer

Marc Graham

James Frewer, musical director and composer, also appears on keys as James the Musical Mollusc, the shellfish who likes to tickle his ivories.

Marc Graham is, of course, our dame once again, this year playing Pattie Breadcake, the Queen of the Ocean and Ariel’s mam.

Josie Morley - Hull Pantomime Cast

Josie Morley

Andrew Ross - Hull Pantomime Cast

Andrew Ross

Josie Morley, another panto regular who also appeared in Us Against Whatever, plays Steve Prince, the cleaner of the Humber with eyes on royalty.

Why have one panto dame when you can have two? Enter Andrew Ross, long suffering stage manager, who plays Chips Breadcake, Pattie’s daughter.

Nigel Taylor - Hull Pantomime Cast

Nigel Taylor

Emma Thornett - Hull Pantomime Cast

Emma Thornett

Nigel Taylor (Prez 96) makes his panto debut as Flounder, the rapping fish, after catching the theatre bug in our Edinburgh hit, The Canary and the Crow, and being awarded our Career Kickstarter Fund.

And last but not least, Emma Thornett, the quickfire MC from Us Against Whatever, stars as the infamous villain Ursula, who longs to oust Pattie from her throne as Queen of the Ocean.

Tickets are on sale now for The Little Mermaid, including our Christmas Extravaganza on Thursday 19th December with a live Christmas set from The Hubbards and mass karaoke, and late-night, adult-only shows on select dates.

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