Ossett-based company Ketchup productions debut show tours to Australia
You have to wonder who would be one: producers are essentially responsible for everything and receive essentially none of the praise. They take neither the applause the actors receive on stage, nor the off stage praise with which directors and writers are showered.
So why do it? Ryan Hogan has a clear answer: “I love making things happen and I realised that’s basically the role of a producer.” Hogan is the producer of Ossett-based company Ketchup productions, which is having a phenomenally impressive start to its life.
The company’s debut show, Jesus, Jane, Mother and Me, co-produced with Huddersfield’s Lawrence Batley Theatre, had a seriously impressive, award-winning run at the Edinburgh Festival and the show is now, having won the Holden Street Theatre’s Edinburgh Award, headed down under for a 30-performance run at the Adelaide Fringe this month.
Given that the company is barely a year old, it’s quite the start. Hogan says: “Like a lot of good things, I kind of fell into producing accidentally. As part of a project while studying theatre and performance at the university of Leeds I started putting on little cabaret nights with my mates that we called Ketchup. We wanted to create a space for LGBTQ artists based in the North to present their work. They were a huge success and I really enjoyed giving these artists a springboard – I didn’t realise what I was doing was producing until somebody told me. I set up Ketchup as a proper production company in 2021 with a vision to create performance that we call ‘sweet, tangy and a little bit messy’, hence Ketchup.”What’s particularly exciting about this new company and its early success is that it hints at something I’ve often written about in these pages: the strength of Yorkshire theatre. With companies like Ketchup joining and adding to the ecology, it bodes well for that strength continuing.
The first play from Ketchup is written and directed by Philip Stokes and stars his 19-year-old son Jack. The play tells the story of a slightly unusual boy called Daniel Valentine, a superfan whose life has been devoted to his two favourite things: Jesus and Yorkshire diva Jane McDonald. Described as a twisted coming of age story about how hard growing up can be when you’re a little different, it explores young people’s mental health and the dynamic between a mother and son.
Hogan is delighted at the reception for his company’s first production. “One of our mantras is to work with artists based in the North of England who want to make performance that is bold, brave and boundary pushing,” he says. “The team behind the play is made up of Yorkshire born creatives with the same vision, so the project was a perfect fit. The success has been overwhelming. We first presented the show at a little performance space in Wakefield and it got a great reception right off the bat, so we always thought we had something good, but to get the awards, five star reviews, standing ovations and now taking it to Australia, that’s all incredible.”
The good news continues; when the play finishes its run in Australia, it will return to a UK tour taking in Leeds Carriageworks and Hull Truck. Becky Atkinson, Chief Executive of Lawrence Batley Theatre says: “I am incredibly proud of our involvement with this production and the success it has had. It’s a phenomenal show with real northern heart, an outstanding performance from a young actor and a dedicated team behind it. We are excited to be able to share this uniquely British story with a national and international audience and showcase the quality of work coming out of West Yorkshire.”
Perhaps then, even if the producer doesn’t necessarily get the plaudits on stage, it’s all worth it anyway. Hogan says: “I just love theatre and being a producer gives you the chance to immerse yourself in it. You get to work with artists, technical teams, marketing departments, participation teams and everyone in between and give them the support they need to create the shows you see on stage. It is tough, you feel responsible for all the creatives involved, you’ve got the budgets to think about. But when you’re sat in an auditorium seeing audiences enjoying themselves there’s nothing like it and it makes all the hard work worthwhile.”