HUDDERSFIELD 2008: An ordinary place with extraordinary voices.
That’s the view of a local theatre group.
In a powerful new piece for the stage, Chol Theatre has gathered the diverse voices of Huddersfield to take a fresh, funny and frank look at what’s happening under the surface of the town.
Beast Market tells the stories of people who live and work in Huddersfield, in their own words.
A state of the nation production, blending storytelling, images, movement and live music, Beast Market is the voice of modern British urban community, says its producers.
The play highlights the change, personal journeys and characters who live and work around the Open Market and surrounding areas.
In the view of some, the area has seen better days, but can the new communities cast a different light on what it means to be British in the 21st century?
Over the past 18 months, Chol has been working to gather audio interviews and photographic images for the research of this original theatre production to be shown on the main stage at the Lawrence Batley Theatre for three days in March.
The piece is directed by Andrew Loretto, previously director of the National Student Drama Festival and Bradford’s Theatre in the Mill.
He says it was very much the project he wanted to do when he arrived at Chol Theatre, which is based at the LBT.
“I was very keen to do something by, about and with Huddersfield,” he says.
“The Huddersfield voice is not out there in the way that Manchester and Leeds are and I wanted to show the town’s stories in a piece of theatre,” he says.
Eighteen months of work produced a wealth of material in interviews with all sorts of people who frequent the streets around Beast Market and the open market.
Traders, shoppers, homeless people, restaurant customers and police officers were recorded. Even Kirklees Council leader Robert Light and Huddersfield vicar Catherine Ogle got in on the act.
Views ranged from anarchist to the far-right, although Andrew says the aim was to be non-judgemental.
“We asked them to talk about how they feel about being here, how it’s changed and what they’d like to see,” says Andrew.
The result has been distilled into a piece of what Chol calls verbatim theatre, performed by six actors. It’s edited, but the meanings of what the interviewees said are unaltered.
Andrew says: “It’s celebratory and is very positive in tone. But it also addresses social concerns through honest conversation.”
Photographs were taken by Amanda Crowther throughout the preparation process and will be shown during the stage presentation and in exhibitions around the town.
Her atmospheric images reflect not only people and scenes from the Beast Market area, but also Chol actors in rehearsal.
Andrew says: “We are very anxious for people to get out of their mind the thought that it will be lower standard because it’s community theatre.
“This is a vibrant, fresh piece that will involve the audience.”
Beast Market is presented as part of Huddersfield Literature Festival and there will be a special free festival event at 7pm before each evening performance.
A creative writing contest for young people and adults, based on Beast Market, is being run in conjunction with Huddersfield Literature Festival.
The show is not recommended for the under 11s and contains some strong language.
Performances are March 12-14 at 8pm, with a Thursday matinee at 1:30pm. One performance will be signed.
Tickets are £10 adults (£8 concessions). Matinee £6. Contact LBT box office on 01484 430528 or visit www.lawrencebatleytheatre.co.uk