Here it is. The perfect play. Theatre, plus actual fish and chips. Everyone else might as well pack up and go home – surely it can’t get any better than this.
I kid, of course, but Mikron Theatre really has found a pretty exceptional combination with One of Each – theatre played in actual fish and chip shops, which will be serving (some would argue) the greatest cuisine ever created.
“Do you have scraps on yours?” asks Mikron’s artistic director Marianne McNamara. Seems a daft question. Of course I have scraps. It’s not proper fish and chips otherwise.
“I’m from Manchester so I have what I call a chip barm, which just gets blank looks from everyone over here. Then there’s the question of mushy peas, curry sauce. It’s really not straightforward.” Well, when she puts it like that. “Everyone loves fish and chips, that seemed like a great starting point.”
She’s right, of course. Anyone in their right minds does love a fish and chip supper, but that, along with the very valid arguments about exactly how you’re supposed to eat the nation’s favourite dish, does not a play make.
Fortunately, the writer on board for Mikron’s latest play is the exceptionally talented Deborah McAndrew.
McNamara says: “She’s written something that’s Shakespearean, she really has. There are three spirits who appear as three fishwives, there are twins who are at loggerheads with each other, it’s a really funny piece of work.”
McAndrew says: “It’s always a lot of fun writing for Mikron, but working on One of Each has been a real labour of love. Like most British people, fish and chips are full of nostalgia for me. Right up until the present time it’s still a Friday family treat, but more evocative are the memories of childhood holidays: walking down the promenade at dusk, the sound and smell of the sea and the wind cooling my supper. If heaven exists, that’s what it is – hot, salty, seaside fish and chips.”
McAndrew’s latest play for the company follows her work Beyond The Veil, about bee-keeping and Losing The Plot, about allotments. She is also just coming off the back of a UK Theatre Award for her Northern Broadsides’ play An August Bank Holiday Lark.
The unique thing about Mikron is that the plays they stage aren’t just a pun on an activity, they really do, genuinely, get involved in the stories they are presenting.
So while the play about bee-keeping was performed near apiaries, the play about allotments was performed on allotments, so One of Each will be performed in fish and chip shops around Yorkshire and the rest of the country.
“It is the uniqueness of Mikron – we don’t perform in theatres, we perform in places where people can sit and have a pint, or fish and chips, and watch the show.
“Lots of our audiences say to us that they don’t really go to the theatre but they love coming to Mikron. We don’t dumb anything down, we do high quality, but for people who sometimes think that theatre is not for them, because they think you have to behave or dress in a certain way, or that it’s for the elite, we set out to show them that it isn’t.”
One of Each tells the story of Sir Caspian Delamere, a man on a mission to find the finest Fish and Chips in Britain. He’s narrowed it down to two seaside vendors who by coincidence are rival establishments run by twins, Roderick and Annette Whale. Unable to agree on the best way to cook this iconic dish, they went their separate ways years ago, and now they find their food and their philosophies in direct competition for the coveted Golden Fish-Fork award. McNamara says: “While Rodney believes in the old fashioned way of doing things, Annette creates her fish and chips with science. So while she’s creating things in this incredibly precise way, he’s doing things like using dripping and puts a lot of love into his food.”
The other unique thing about Mikron is not just where they tour, but how the company tours – on board a vintage narrowboat. “We are like the old troubadours, taking our work out on the road – or canals – in a way that our audiences really buy into.”
The company is one of the UK’s most prolific, touring to hundreds of venues every year. Based in the village of Marsden, Mikron also annually contract a company of four actor-musicians and commission two shows with original music.
The shows, routed in social and contemporary history, tell the stories of ordinary people caught up in big events. It really is theatre that pays homage to a former way of life.