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Exploring Gig Theatre with Middle Child

It was such a pleasure to work with skilled and talented theatre makers who have a genuine interest in people. Theatre makers who are also generous, honest and good-humoured enough for us to share silly moments with.

Not many of you have seen Trickster, right? Trickster was a collaboration project with the Irish company That’s Life, led artistically by our very own Jez Colborne. After much music playing, workshopping, some pub going and an incident of being marooned on the tiny island of Inis Oirr (that’s a story for later), the collaboration culminated in two gloriously joyous sold-out performances at the Black Box, Galway in 2014. Trickster was filled with live music, sound foley and songs. Performers crisscrossed the audience and “herded” people by pushing platforms, passing sandbags, pulling ropes, and moving a shipping container and a cherry picker. It was loud, sweaty, fast-moving and emotive.

In retrospect, Trickster sowed the seeds for Mind the Gap’s exploration of Gig Theatre.

I have been admiring Middle Child from afar for a while. From Weekend Rock Stars to All We Ever Wanted Was Everything to The Canary and the Crow. In 2019, I spotted Middle Child’s Artistic Director Paul Smith at an event at The Young Vic Theatre. Every time I tried to approach him, he was talking to somebody but I eventually managed to grab his attention and I’m glad I did! We sparked up a conversation about the possibility of Mind the Gap and Middle Child having a play day together and, last month, we finally made it happen – a full week together at our studios in Bradford.

The two companies were looking forward to spending some blank-card creative time with each other. The Mind the Gap band, consisting of Jez Colborne (keyboard, band leader), Charlotte Jones (vocals), Lorraine Brown (bass), Alison Short (saxophone and flute), and Howard Davies (percussion), were joined by versatile performers Alan Clay, Liam Bairstow and Anna Gray. The room was fired up with energy, musical talent and a wealth of personal stories to draw on for inspiration.

It was such a pleasure to work with skilled and talented theatre makers who have a genuine interest in people. Theatre makers who are also generous, honest and good-humoured enough for us to share silly moments with. Paul Smith, Luke Barnes (writer) and Jack Chamberlain (director, drummer) created a chemistry in the room which was palpable. Together we shared stories of love, of feeling unwanted, of our triumphs, of our disappointments. Luke used these stories and emotions to create fantastical characters in circumstances that somehow echoed with everyone in the room. When the performers took on these characters and lived out their situations on stage, the band gradually added in layers of music that amplified the stories. By the end of the week, we shared what we had made to other Mind the Gap company members. It felt like a gig!

If you ask any theatre maker whether they want more time, the answer is almost always yes. The week has fired up imaginations, asked a few questions, and most of all been dearly enjoyed. Mind the Gap artists have stories to tell, through Gig Theatre we see the expressions of these stories as liberating and infectious. Do I want more time to explore this? Well, like most of the other theatre makers, I am sure you can guess what my answer is.

By Joyce Nga Yu Lee, Artistic Director

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