Hello Live Theatre blog! What’s happened last since we met? Thanks for asking. I’ll let you know in a minute. In the meantime, woah! You’ve been busy…
…reviewing Incognito…exposing us to 10 Minutes To…promoting Ian Mclaughlin’s one-man show…spotlighting new plays by Lee Mattinson and Paddy Campbell…talking to Joe Caffrey about, err, being Joe Caffrey …and…many other things…
Speaking of those last two, you recently teased up their return with Wet House to Live Theatre this month. In fact, Bloggy old pal, I’d say you were a little excited to see that play about homelessness and addiction back home before it goes on tour.
Guess what? I am as chuffed as you, and for two good reasons.
Firstly, it’s a highly accomplished piece of theatre. Paddy and Joe were worthy winners of Journal Culture Awards as writer and performer of the year. And director Max Roberts, actors Joe, Riley Jones, Chris Connel, Dave Nellist (this time replaced by Simon Roberts), Eva Quinn and Jackie Lye rightly swanned off with the Journal’s Performance of the Year gong.
Basically Wet House is good, its back and people should go see it.
The second reason I’m pleased about the return of Wet House is because it has helped another play find an audience. Alphabetti’s How Did I Get To This Point? has four performances in Live Theatre’s studio during the Wet House run. (Two on 19, one each on 24 and 25 September.)
A couple of years ago Alphabetti Theatre was just a hopeful bounce in the step of Artistic Director Ali Pritchard. A Northumbria University graduate with a flair for anarchic humour, Ali set up the company in 2012, and opened a fringe venue in Newcastle in 2013.
Alphabetti’s mission is to help emerging artists, and feed established venues with talent. It has become a vibrant theatre, music, comedy and spoken word programmer. Anna Ryder (assistant director on Wet House), Rowan McCabe, Lisbon, Mixtape, Louise Taylor and Micky Cochrane, and many others have been given a platform by Alphabetti.
For an institution of Live Theatre’s reputation to support Alphabetti is inspiring. It offers hope that the blood line between between fringe and mainstream theatre still pumps in our region.
The two plays make for an interesting double header too. In its own productions Alphabetti works with new writers to find alternative ways to serve up stories…often with a side order of comedy. So How Did I Get To This Point? will tackle similar themes to Wet House in an altogether different way.
Alright! Ok! YES! I have to admit to a little bias.
I have been fortunate to direct How Did I Get To This Point? I’ve spent plenty of time being entertained by Ali. (I did mention he was anarchic and bouncy right?) I’ve been able to work with Allison Davies (who’s excellent Weather To Fly visited Live Theatre’s studio last year), and Pip Chamberlin and Amy Foley who are both fine actors.
But that’s not why I am pleased to see How Did I Get To This Point? on its feet at Live Theatre.
The play was borne out of research with homeless people. It began life two years ago, as a 10 minute comedy drama. It has since worked through several re-writes and scratch performances, including First in Three at Northern Stage. Dozens more people living on the streets, or in hostels, have been interviewed. The result is honest, sometimes chaotic and deeply humane.
It isn’t exactly a verbatim play. Actors do re-tell homeless people’s stories. We’ve kept their words but created three composite characters from them – Molly, Phil and Gary. The play follows their journey from losing a home, through rough sleeping, to living in supported housing.
In between character sections the audience will experience a homelessness assessment, hear about life in hostels from service log books, reflect on public perceptions of homelessness and be asked to give their own opinions.
Oh and there’s a lift, a hammer, a rendition of the Eye of The Tiger, some salespeople and an audience member who will be our “participant” for every show. (If you want to volunteer email me, you get a free ticket.)
Produced with a fringe aesthetic Alphabetti’s play is trying to add further questions to those posed by Live Theatre’s award winning triumph. Wet House asks who will care for the most vulnerable and challenges conventional moral wisdom about those who suffer addiction. How Did I Get To This Point? ponders how easy it is to slip into homelessness in our fundamentally inequitable society, asking just how different those vulnerable people are from the rest of us.
As someone who has worked in both creative industries and homelessness, I’m convinced all these questions are equally important. Just as I hope that by working together, across mainstream and fringe boundaries, we can produce theatre which reaches more people and has maximum impact.
So then, Live Blog me old marra, you asked what I’ve been up to since we last spoke?
Whilst you were documenting all the great stuff Live Theatre has been creating, I was off making something else for you to comment on. Fingers crossed for another successful run of Wet House and for How Did I Get To This Point? giving your bloggers something else interesting to write about.
Ben Dickenson, director of How Did I Get To This Point?
How Did I Get To This Point? is at Live Theatre on Friday 19 September and Wednesday 24 & Thursday 25 September.
Wet House is on at Live Theatre from Wednesday 17 September to Saturday 11 October.