This August we counted nine Hull Drama shows at least – some as independent self-produced projects, others as as part of the Absolutely Cultured’s Hull Takeover initiative, which takes selected productions of the lively Hull scene to Edinburgh, as part of the UK City of Culture legacy.
After a successful start at the Brighton Fringe Festival, Alexander Grieve (BA Drama 2016) toured Edinburgh with his debut solo Awk the Clown show All Work, No Play.
The award-winning playwright Josh Overton (BA Drama 2015), who collaborates with the Hull-based Silent Uproar Company and the Pub Corner Poets, appeared at the festival with the well-known multi-disciplinary production and entertainment company called Loud Poets. Finlay McGuigan hit success with their two-hander touring sell-out show Slime for children aged 2 to 5. In Edinburgh it was performed at The Herd Theatre to 4 and 5 star reviews.
Drama graduate of 2012, Connie Wookey, toured Edinburgh Fringe with her award-winning solo music comedy Denied and writes of the origins of her hilarious show:
“I started writing this show two years ago when I was living in America and working as an actor (waitress/bartender/babysitter/temp/PA). I’m delighted to have been programmed by Underbelly at Ed Fringe this year. I’ve got some London 2019 news that I’m very excited about. I’ll keep working on the show and see what happens.”
Like every year, the Z Theatre Company, led and produced by current students for first year Drama students, took up two shows featuring new work, Matthew Green’s sad comedy Luminescence on issues of mental health, and Chloe Herrick’s musical comedy What Does Love Mean to You about loss and grief.
Luke Dankoff (3rd year student of BA Drama and Theatre Practice and president of the Drama Green Room Committee) sums up this year's experience:
“Z theatre company is a student theatre company comprising of first year students that fundraised throughout the year alongside their studies to get to the Edinburgh Fringe. Edinburgh was an amazing experience and both shows Luminescence, or Can You Spare a Moment to Talk and What Does Love Mean to You both received amazing feedback from audience members and was an experience that was so useful for the first years to develop their skills, not only theatre skills, but also development of relationships and how to deal with issues that may arise throughout such a busy time in Edinburgh.”
As part of Absolutely Cultured’s Hull Takeover, three graduate companies presented their work. Just Club, set up only last year by recent Drama graduates Jake Marsden, Matthew Collins, Jamie Nowell and Bruce Wadsworth, gained instant success with their show Standing Too Close on Our Own in the Dark, when they were selected to perform at the National Student Drama Festival earlier this year. With that experience and teaming up with Jack Chamberlain (BA Drama 2014) as their solo performer, they were selected by Absolutely Cultured to represent Hull as part of the Hull Takeover contingent.
Jamie Nowell (BA Drama and Theatre Practice, 2018; MA Theatre Making, 2019) comments on the success of their show at Edinburgh Fringe:
“We have had a fantastic time taking Standing Too Close on Our Own in the Dark to Edinburgh as part of Hull Takeover. Paines Plough’s The Roundabout is a really atmospheric venue and the support offered by Absolutely Cultured, Back to Ours, Middle Child and Hull Truck was invaluable, as well as that of the other Takeover companies.”
Middle Child Theatre Company was set up by Drama graduates of 2012 and has gone to be an indelible part of Hull’s culture. Last year Middle Child were awarded the status of a National Portfolio Organisation based in Hull, doing important community work and supporting start-up projects and young talents (among them Just Club). In Edinburgh, they performed their new show, Daniel Ward’s musical play The Canary and the Crow.
The Roaring Girls Company, set up by Lizi Perry and Rachael Abbey (BA Drama 2012 and MA Theatre Making 2014), have also gone from the strength to strength. Their newest production Beach Body Ready has become a smash hit enjoying a month-long run at Edinburgh, as Shaunagh McClean (BA Drama and Theatre Practice, 2014 and MA Theatre Making, 2016) sums up:
“This year is the first time that The Roaring Girls have been to Edinburgh as a company – and we are overwhelmed by the responses both from critics and most importantly, audiences (including Sir Lenny Henry himself!). Overall we received 61 Stars and had fantastic write-ups from national publications such as The Guardian and The Stage, and filled two-thirds of our audience. Whilst we were there, we were shortlisted for two awards, including the Venues North Award and the Sit Up Awards. We developed relationships with fantastic artists from all over the country, and are starting conversations with venues and organisations about taking the show on a national tour next year. We had a huge amount of support for the show, being part of The Pleasance Futures Season, with Pleasance and York Theatre Royal and also the Hull Takeover in partnership with Absolutely Cultured, Middle Child, Hull Truck Theatre and Back To Ours.”
The representation of Hull’s theatre scene and of the University bears testament to the continuing success of our Drama graduates and the lively artistic community that they have come to create.