Centre Stage with David Bown

Ruth Madoc and Brooke Vincent, pictured, in Be My Baby were funny and tender by turns and the ensemble of the Terence Rattigan play French without Tears was fabulous.
Ruth Madoc and Brooke Vincent, pictured, in Be My Baby were funny and tender by turns and the ensemble of the Terence Rattigan play French without Tears was fabulous.

July was the last time I wrote a column… the summer seems an age away now – and what a summer it was!

Complete political turmoil courtesy of Brexit, the Olympics/Paralympics complete with scandal and a woeful England football team complete with not one but two woeful managers. Incidentally, I’m relatively pleased to see Gareth Southgate in charge of the national team.

He was recently very involved with junior football in our district as one of his boys played for Beckwithshaw – in the same league as my lad.

He was refereeing a game a few years’ ago and awarded a penalty to his son’s team.

My son was in the opposition’s goal and parents were rather mischievously shouting ‘you take it Gareth!’

However, his son stepped up…and… my boy saved.

If I’d have known that particular piece of irony was on its way, back in 1996 as I watched the Euro semi-final against Germany with such dejection, I would have forgiven him there and then for his penalty miss.

Seriously – I hope he does well, he had so much time for the young players in our region.

I had my usual stint at the Edinburgh Fringe back in August and managed to see a 6’6” power ballad singing but otherwise mute clown, a shadow puppet show with an orchestra and four overhead projectors, the funniest escapologist imaginable from Leeds, two post-modern circus shows, a handful of comedians (including a naked one) and a Ukrainian folk punk interactive piece of theatre that required me to be a revolutionary building barricades and throwing bricks. Fairly usual summer for me.

Our thoughts are now turning to Christmas and the pantomime. However, I have to say the autumn season got off to a cracking dramatic start. Firstly we had John Godber with The Debt Collectors, then Amanda Whittington’s very popular Be My Baby followed by an early Terence Rattigan – French without Tears. All had terrific casts.

Two Reform Theatre stalwarts, Kivan Dene and David Walker, gave very assured performances in Godber’s latest offering, Ruth Madoc and Brooke Vincent in Be My Baby were funny and tender by turns and the ensemble of the Rattigan play was fabulous.

A prominent star of Coronation Street, Brooke Vincent has been everywhere in recent weeks promoting Be My Baby, from local radio to Good Morning Britain’s Lorraine, as well as a slot pitting her wits against Piers Morgan.

It’s always lovely when you meet someone as successful and young as Brooke that has time for everyone in the building and nothing is too much trouble.

Likewise her co-star Ruth Madoc, who I could have listened to all day, holding court in the circle bar, recounting her early career in The Black and White Minstrel Show and of course as the iconic Gladys Pugh in Hi De Hi.

The cast of French without Tears immersed themselves wholeheartedly into their week in Harrogate, attending fundraising events and engaging with our staff and supporters here at the theatre.

All three plays had fantastic feedback, providing the theatre with a great start to the season.

There was no letting up as we powered straight into the comedy festival, which was described by the Yorkshire Post as ‘bigger and better than ever’ and the most ‘diverse and eclectic in the region’. We had some big names such as Ross Noble, Adam Hills, Russell Kane, Shappi Korsandi and America’s Got Talent finalist The Boy with Tape on His Face.

We also had our second Circle Live event, which sees the circle bar play host to a range of local musicians.

Look out for similar events in the future.

Our bar is a lovely place to hang out with some music and a handful of guest craft beers.

As we head towards the end of the year we hand over to three of our fantastic community groups who will bring productions of Legally Blonde, Animal Farm and Are You Being Served? If opera is your thing then I highly recommend ETO with their baroque season from Venice.

Looking to the future, the political upheaval back in the summer saw Karen Bradley appointed as the new culture minister (with her BSc in mathematics).

She spoke well of the arts – being accessible for all. Something we are very mindful of at Harrogate Theatre as we start to address the creative case for diversity and another round of Arts Council applications.

It is imperative that Harrogate Theatre moves forward in everything it does. For this to happen we need your continued support where ever possible – so do think about getting involved with The Supporters, fundraising campaigns or simply coming to see the shows.

On that note, make sure you buy your panto tickets. It’s just around the corner and proving as popular as ever.