Bold programming and breadth of choice is a winner

Alexei SayleAlexei Sayle
Alexei Sayle
Over the past couple of years, Harrogate Theatre has proved itself a strong, creative voice in the region, offering audiences all manner of diverse theatrical treats.

Its new season promises more of the same, delivering a carefully thought out combination of mainstream plays as well as new writing, comedy and music.

Kevin Jamieson, Executive Programmer at the Theatre, has been bold in his choices and is willing to take risks on new and emerging artists and their work – such as Sheffield-based theatre company Black Toffee’s dark comedy Hidden which has been playing to sold out audiences at the Edinburgh Fringe this month and which Jamieson has been promoting ever since he saw it last year as part of Manchester’s Re:Play festival. Hidden, written and performed by Laura Lindsay and Pete Carruthers, will have a short run in Harrogate’s Studio in early 2014 as an associated production with the theatre and it will tour to other venues in the region later in the year.

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“Doing so well in Edinburgh has really given the show a boost and lifted it to another level,” says Jamieson.

“As a venue I think you always have a duty of care to nurture the next generation of theatre makers. We will offer whatever a new company needs – and nine times out of ten that’s not about money, it’s about offering free rehearsal space or help with tour booking and marketing.”

This autumn will see the theatre once again hosting the Harrogate Comedy festival, now in its fifth year. The festival has grown in size and stature since its inception and among those appearing in October are Jeremy Hardy, Ardal O’Hanlan, Josh Widdicome, Phill Jupitus, Alexei Sayle and Nina Conti. But it isn’t all about household names, here too there are a number of local artists and those who are at the beginning of their careers.

John Bishop opened our first festival, before he was famous,” says Jamieson.

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“He played to about 150 people and everyone was saying ‘who is he?’ but by the end of that tour he was huge.”

One of the main highlights of the season is the All Points North strand, launched last year and now to become an annual mini-season celebrating the range of theatrical talent in Yorkshire. It will include world premieres of brand new pieces – including the latest comic play by Nick Lane – as well as revivals of old favourites such as John Godber’s Teechers.

After the huge success of their version of A Government Inspector in partnership with Harrogate last year, Northern Broadsides will again be premiereing their latest play at the theatre.

The Grand Gesture is another transposition from Russia to the North of England, ‘freely adapted’ by playwright Deborah McAndrew from Nikolai Erdman’s The Suicide.

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This year’s panto is Sleeping Beauty and running alongside it in the Studio over the winter months, will be a series entitled Bump in the Night, a collection of spooky theatre pieces including the premiere of Edith in the Dark which explores the life and work of children’s E Nesbit, author of The Railway Children, who began her writing career penning horror stories.

“I think it’s about getting a balance,” says Jamieson. “While there is obviously an appetite for mainstream plays it’s important to present a breadth of things.”

• The new season opens on September 6. Details 01423 502116, or visit