Slung Low and Freedom Studios' collaboration to boost new writers shows the importance of theatre in Yorkshire

For complicated reasons, I haven’t actually managed to get to a live theatre show in the post-pandemic world yet.

Journalist and playwright Aina J Khan, one of the writers whose work appears in 15 Minutes Live.

So last week, when I saw Mikron theatre sharing a photograph on social media of an actual theatre performance to a live audience, I’ll admit I found it really quite moving.

Just the very notion of gathering together to hear a story, to share the experience with a gang of actors and a group of strangers; it’s really something.

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The photograph of the performance that Mikron shared was taking place at the Holbeck in Leeds home of Slung Low, and to see the company provide a venue for a triumphant return to action for another Yorkshire company when it hosted Mikron’s A Dog’s Tale sums up so much about how we got through the past year and how we’ll keep going.

Ben Tagoe is another of the writers involved.

The key is sticking together, working together. Mikron’s artistic director Marianne McNamara admitted that before opening night, there were nerves.

“It’s been so long since we’ve been able to perform. We can’t begin to express how joyous it is to get back out on tour. Opening night was magical.

“Before Covid we’d taken for granted the shared experience that live theatre is and it wasn’t until Saturday night that we realised how much we’d missed it. Everyone was so happy to be there and the atmosphere was incredible – it was like being with old friends. There is no substitute for live theatre.”

The good news for Yorkshire audiences is that there’s more of it on the way at Slung Low – next month the team is working with another Yorkshire company to present a theatrical event.

Over the past year these pages have been dedicated more than once to celebrating the work of Slung Low, which has become so much more than a theatre company during the pandemic.

Artistic director Alan Lane says: “We never shut here at Slung Low. All through the Covid crisis we’ve been open to our community, with a Facebook gameshow, a food bank and much else besides.

“But what we have been missing is our live audience, the chance to welcome friends old and new to the club to be entertained and moved and sometimes provoked. So who better to open up the stage again than our old friends Mikron, with the first in a whole season of brilliant shows.

“At the heart of everything we do is the moment of live performance and it’s so galvanising to welcome it back.”

To that end, next month the venue will also be welcoming back a popular format – 15 Minutes Live, where six writers are commissioned to come up with plays 15 minutes in

length which are performed along with live sound effects, audience participation and live music.

The theatre event has built up quite the following over the past decade – the afternoon event sees a host guiding the audience through proceedings, with vocal interaction with the plays being encouraged. The plays are recorded and made available following the performances.

Slung Low has teamed up with Bradford-based Freedom Studios for the event.

Established by Madani Younis and born out of Asian Theatre School, Freedom Studios, still based in Bradford, is collaborating with the Leeds-based Slung Low for the first time on this latest edition of 15 Minutes Live.

Aisha Khan, co-artistic director of Freedom Studios, says: “We are thrilled to be back and what a perfect way to start.

“It feels so fitting to be making 15 Minutes Live, our first co-production with Slung Low, as we welcome audiences back to enjoy both the live recording at The Holbeck in Leeds and as audio plays.

“We are so excited to be showcasing these commissioned short plays, bringing together established and emerging writing talent in what is always a wonderful event.”

All the short plays will be recorded during the performance and then made accessible for free download from Slung Low’s website following the event.

The performances of 15 Minutes Live, from The Holbeck to the company’s former home in a set of disused railway arches, to Leeds Town Hall, have always had something of the feel of ‘event theatre’.

The performances use the Slung Low trademark of audience members wearing headsets to listen in to the actors and there is always a frisson knowing that the audience are a part of something that will be shared widely as audio plays following the show.

The fact that this event is happening in a post-pandemic world, with the added novelty of simply being at a performance, will surely make for an extra special production.

The writers commissioned for this year’s event are former Hull writer Tom Wells, TV writer Ben Tagoe, journalist Aina J Khan, Leeds based actor-musician Claire Marie-Seddon, Rani Moorthy and actor Ray Sesay.

Claire Marie-Seddon says: “It’s an incredible opportunity to be given this platform as a new writer. I have recently finished the Introduction to Playwriting and the Street Voices 8 course at Freedom studios and they have been an integral part of building my confidence and technique.

“It is exciting to experience writing for audio and I am incredibly grateful to have my first commission supported by Slung Low and Freedom Studios.”

15 minutes live at the Holbeck

The performances of 15 Minutes Live takes place on Saturday, July 10 at 2pm at The Holbeck in south Leeds.

Tickets for the event, as is the case with all Slung Low shows, are free if you book online in advance or are Pay What You Decide on the day.

For more information and to book visit: www.slunglow.org/shows Mikron’s production A Dog’s Tale is touring through the summer and early autumn along with their production about women’s football Atalanta Forever.

For information about both shows and to book tickets visit mikron.org.uk/tour_dates