Oh the halcyon days of theatre. You could argue that it’s because I was in my 20s. You could argue that it’s sheer nostalgia. You could argue that it was because it’s where I met the love of my life. But the theatre I remember so fondly, I said to my husband the other day, doesn’t seem to exist anymore.
I was at Northern Stage watching a Hull Truck show last weekend when I said this. The show was fantastic. I loved it. But we got talking about our memories of working for Hull Truck from 2002. About being part of something.
I know what you’re thinking. That we’re those old school stuck-in-their-ways former staff who can’t accept change. But I don’t think that’s true.
The old Hull Truck was so special to me. It was special to me because everyone socialised together – from the bar staff, to the executives, the actors, the crew and the admin team. We were a little family. We bickered, but we were a little family.
It was special to me because having to work a Friday night for press night was way more exciting than going anywhere else anyway. Because the smell of the building and its rickety seats felt like home. Because there were no airs and graces.
Then something changed. Following lots of hard work to fundraise for, and open, a new £15m theatre, executive team members suddenly left. It seemed their faces didn’t fit the brave new corporate world the board was hurtling the once soulful company towards. It felt like the theatre belonged to the board of business people who governed it, rather than the artists who created the work and the people who lived and breathed it.
But there I am harping on again about the past. I think it’s trying to get back on track, it’s got a great artistic director today in Mark Babych and it’s fighting against funding cuts. But there really was something special that I to this day still yearn for at the old Spring Street Theatre, the first home of the first Hull Truck crew.
Was it a sign of the times? Is corporate the road that all theatre is travelling down? Or does some magic simply run it’s course?
After a long trip to London on Wednesday this week I was feeling a bit tired and not sure I was up for a night at the theatre. But I went along to Alphabetti to see Bacon Knees and Sausage Fingers and I was reminded that authentic theatre magic is still alive and kicking. In fact, it punched me hard in the stomach, made me cackle with laughter and left me with a broad smile on my face.
Alphabetti is a small theatre in Newcastle. It’s on its (I believe) third home. And it was founded by a guy called Ali Pritchard who graduated from Northumbria University’s Drama and Scriptwriting course.
And it truly is a magical place. In fact, who the hell am I to moan about the death of magical theatre when it’s right on my doorstep and I hardly ever go!
That has to change.
The show, which was directed by Ali and written/performed by theatre stalwarts Gary Kitching and Steve Byron was superb. Uncomfortable and experimental viewing, a punch in the stomach with lighter laughs and moments of hope. And the performances – outstanding.
And following the interval, a brilliant reaction piece from Twisting Ducks – a North East theatre company that creates opportunities for people with learning disabilities and autism to celebrate their creative talents.
After the show we had a glass of wine in the bar, which at this point became rammed with the familiar faces of the North East arts scene. They hadn’t all been in the show, but this was obviously the place to hang out.
I’ve only seen about three shows at Alphabetti. But I’ll definitely be making an effort to go more often. The spirit of theatre – real, gritty, edgy theatre, with a bar serving local beer (brewed by local artists!) and a gorgeous theatre dog taking the best seat in the house is alive and well at Alphabetti.
My god – GO.
As of today, you have just two performances of Bacon Knees and Sausage Fingers left to catch. If you can get a ticket, I urge you to head over. Visit www.alphabettitheatre.co.uk to book.