Being awarded Arts Council National Portfolio status for a fourth term (14 years) running at the end of June was great news for Harrogate Theatre. It is in recognition of the range and quality of the shows that we produce and present, and this last month or so has been outstanding for drama here at the Theatre.
In June we were the only Northern partner for the 1927 Theatre Company that has received critical acclaim all over the world. A captivating mixture of live action and projection, everyone that came along was blown away by the pure spectacle. At the beginning of this month we hosted The Father by Florian Zeller. A play that received the 2014 Molière award - France’s highest accolade. It is translated by Christopher Hampton (who did such a sumptuous job with his Oscar winning Dangerous Liaisons), and went on to enjoy a sell-out West End run in London. The narrative allows the audience to see the action as if through the confused eyes of the lead character, who suffers from dementia, it constantly confounds expectations and works almost like a thriller and was beautifully acted in our production by the phenomenal Kenneth Alan Taylor. I think The Father is one of the best shows I’ve seen at Harrogate in the past ten years. Last week, in complete contrast, we had the National tour of the Ruth Rendell Classic Judgement in Stone with a star-studded cast that included the legendary Shirley Ann Field.
However it doesn’t stop there… At the end of the month we have our own Phil Lowe directing a new mystery-thriller called Magic Circle. It is the first full-length dramatic work for the theatre by renowned novelist Kim Newman, author of the critically acclaimed Anno Dracula novels, starring award-winning actor James Hyland. Drenched in a sinister atmosphere it takes the audience on a journey of twists and turns accompanied by some brilliant moments of wit.
In the Autumn Harrogate Theatre will present, in association with English Touring Theatre, The Weir by the award winning playwright Conor McPherson. A haunting and beautifully written ghost story that took London by storm when it opened in 1997 and immediately transferred to Broadway. Following on from that we will host Rita, Sue and Bob Too by Andrea Dunbar, which is an Out of Joint and Royal Court Theatre co-production. The play, set in Bradford, is largely regarded as a contemporary comedy classic that has since been made into a memorable film with George Costigan. Max Stafford-Clark who directed the very first production 30 years ago, will return to the helm and will also host a Q&A from the stage with the actors after the first performance. I worked with Max at the Royal Court back in the 1980’s, a real golden age for the Sloane Square theatre, with productions such as Serious Money starring Gary Oldman, The Normal Heart with Martin Sheen and the very first production of Jim Cartwright’s play Road, which has a 30 year revival this summer at The Court. Max Stafford-Clark is truly one of British theatres greats, come along, meet him and hear him speak.
I think Harrogate is really fortunate that these artists and companies want to work with us. There is some real first class drama coming up for our all our audiences to get their teeth into and we are really pleased that this has been recognised and rewarded by the Arts Council. I urge people to make the most of these opportunities. Hope to see you in July and in the autumn.