It’s 1995 and my sister Charlie Mortimer tells me to go to youth theatre, on the Saturday. Like always I obeyed my sister and took part in what was going to confirm my dreams and desires of being an actor. I joined ‘The Young Musketeers’ youth theatre company, which was ran by Jen Hayes and Brian Dodd, the drama session was on every Saturday and was conducted in the studio space of The Queens Hall, Widnes. This venue had become very important to so many local people old and young and it was certainly a place that I became very attached to as well. At the time, to me it was a place where I could be myself, a place where I could be creative, where I could make people laugh and cry.
But this was just my opinion of it, there were other young actors, directors, musicians, dancers and artists in Widnes, who used this venue to either work on their art or used it to perform on the grand stage that it provided. A stage that had some great performers visit it including The Beatles, The Stone Roses, Happy Mondays, Ken Dodd and local musical legend Greg Oldfield. To this day I feel honoured and humbled to the fact that me and many other young performers had been on that very stage and performed our art. From Cabaret nights, Band Nights and Shakespeare productions we all became part of this beautiful venues history.
The one unfortunate problem is the lacking amount of theatre productions that aren’t taking place in this studio space. A space that still retains that history and overall aura, which the Queens Hall gave to so many people. On the 24th July we at TBN are going to cure this problem and bring our latest piece of theatre ‘Safe Mode’ to our home ground. Personally it is a night, which will bring mine and Charlie’s Queens Hall saga to full circle. To have trained there, performed there and now bring work back there, we will both feel as if we have fully grown as creative individuals. That is all thanks to the original venue that set us on this wonderful journey. I hope that the 24th July brings back many familiar faces back to The Studio, Widnes. People who truly remember the good times this place brought. I hope they come to watch theatre that has been made with love and affection, theatre that was only possible because of the determination and inspiration that this very venue brought to our artistic director. I also hope this will also re-ignite the theatre community to start bringing productions back to Widnes. It’s a place that has such history in arts and entertainment that it would be sacrilege, to not even consider being part of that ever going history.
If you have any specific memories of the Queens Hall, that you would like to mention or talk about, feel free to leave a comment below it would be lovely to hear your memories of the place.
Fringe festival season has started and we now know, what is on offer to entertain and broaden our minds this year. This year, we at TBN are setting out our duologue piece ‘Safe Mode’, starring Nathan Morris and Rebecca Derrick. Since we started our research and development of this piece, I have become more intrigued, by duologue productions that exist in theatre and film.
In my personal opinion, if someone had asked me to describe my ideal production, I would have probably said, at some point that a strong ensemble cast, would be essential, but why? I believe the natural human instinct is to say more is better, but through due course, it has been clear to me that some of the finest pieces of work involve at most two or maybe three actors in one production.
Now there are several reasons why this could be the case
1. Investing more to the characters – When there are fewer characters in the piece, the audience can devote their emotional involvement, more to the individual characters on the stage and also feel more involved in their story.
2. More Effective Storylines – With the removal of an ensemble cast in a piece of theatre, the storyline doesn’t have to compensate for the several characters involved. Certain plays will include scenes, which are only really there to validate a characters involvement in the story or to try to give them a substance. It is just common sense when it comes to writing a piece that you need to get the characters involved and make sure that they are necessary to what is going on in the piece. However this can lead to over complex storylines, loopholes and overly long productions. With a two-actor piece, the drama, emotion and flow of the piece, is no longer sacrificed to keep the story running along.
3 – Feels more real – When it comes to a production like ‘Safe Mode’, ‘Waiting For Godot’ or ‘Constellations’ ,the scenes can feel more true to the dialogue and drama of everyday life. That’s not to say in our everyday lives we don’t ever have group chats with our friends and family, but let’s be honest, those chats aren’t the ones that make great drama. The conversations we have, with one of our best mates, relatives, partners or lovers are the ones that we remember and are most important and significant to our time on this world, which leads to my next point.
4-It becomes personal – Because it feels more real and familiar, we start remembering those same conversations we have had in our lives and we in turn start to truly feel the character’s emotions in the scenes. When something horrid has been said, we feel the heartbreak it causes, when something loving is said, we feel the joy and happiness it causes. With these scenes having those true moments of realism, we as the audience become a fly on the wall. It becomes a piece of reality TV except it’s actually good and 110 times more genuine than any ‘Big Brother’ or ‘TOWIE’. No reality TV has given us, the true feeling of intrusion. There are scenes in productions like this, which tension is so high you can barely move, because you think that you are going to make the conflict worse, scenes where the fourth wall disintegrates, because something charming or beautiful is happening between two characters and you truly feel engrossed in the moment.
Productions like this are more effective in giving an audience a dramatic experience than any blockbuster film starring Tom Cruise or Jennifer Lawrence. Two performers in a space with an audience, performing their creative art with all their heart and souls, it becomes infective. Even if theatre isn’t your cup of tea, you can’t take away that moment, when two people are telling a room of strangers a story, a story that is being listened to and is being endured by that very room of strangers and you are one of them.
Take that journey with us on one of these dates. It’s an experience we really want to share with you.
19th and 20th July – Gullivers Bar, Manchester
23rd July – The Continental, Preston
24th July – The Studio, Widnes
26th July – The Old Clubhouse, Buxton