Eleanor Perrin previews Al Smith’s debut play Harrogate, part of The Lakeside Theatre’s Studio Slot programme.
Once again, the time has come for another Studio Slot production at the Lakeside Theatre and this week it is the turn of Al Smith’s twisted drama, Harrogate.
Directed by third year students Louise Day and Ellie Lawrence, Harrogate follows the story of a father struggling to suppress a secret. A secret that promises to tear his family apart. Through a series of interactions between the ambiguously named ‘Him’ (Tom Howard) and ‘Her’ (Ruby Mcilroy), Smith shows us that craving the past can prove destructive. Harrogate is far from predictable.
I had the privilege of being invited to a cast rehearsal and spoke exclusively with the directorial duo. I first asked the girls what drew them towards directing Smith’s play. Louise explained to me: ‘‘We first encountered Harrogate back in October having studied it early on during our Writing For Theatre module. We both found the text shocking to say the least! That’s what makes it so incredibly exciting, the shock. We knew it was a play we wanted to see on its feet and as we were both yet to direct something at Essex, what better opportunity than a Studio Slot at The Lakeside?’’
“That’s what makes it so incredibly exciting, the shock.”
Ellie added: ‘‘Given the amount of time that we needed to commit to the process, picking a play that truly engaged us was essential. As predicted, we’ve spent the past few weeks rehearsing most evenings and several weekends. We really couldn’t run the risk of getting bored of the text halfway through the process! We needed to pick something that would continue to surprise us along the way. What we really liked about Harrogate is the relationships between the various characters; nothing is black and white. It’s difficult to discuss this in detail without giving much away, but we both agreed that Him’s relationship with each female is poignant. Perhaps even topical.’’
I also asked the girls how they have gone about fitting the project around their studies. Louise explained: ‘‘I won’t lie, it’s incredibly tough! From the get-go, Ellie and I have tried to be organised with planning rehearsals, looking ahead and preparing for last minute changes! Directing a show is a lot on top of uni work and maintaining any sort of social life, but if you’re truly passionate about the text you’ve picked then it’s worth it.
Ellie added: ‘‘The great thing about having two directors is that we can step-in and support each other when things get tough. We both have jobs with the SU and balancing work with Harrogate and everything else has been tough at times. But that’s why it’s great that we’ve got each other. I’d always recommend partnering up to anyone considering directing a Studio Slot. To give your actors the best feedback you need two pairs of eyes. To be honest, it’s lovely having someone to support you with such a massive project.’’
“I’d always recommend partnering up to anyone considering directing a Studio Slot.”
Harrogate is playing at the Lakeside Theatre Studio February 27th-28th.