Harrogate Theatre launches return of HT Rep season with Abigail’s Party, Gaslighting and Men Of The World over three weeks

Robin Simpson in rehearsal for the HT REP season at Harrogate Theatre

THREE plays, three weeks, one cast, the HT REP season opens tonight with two familiar faces reunited at Harrogate Theatre.

After performing together in the Shakespeare’s Rose Theatre company at the Eye Of York and playing a riotous Ugly Sister double act in Cinderella at York Theatre Royal last winter, Paul Hawkyard and Robin Simpson are part of the REP company for the quickfire season ahead, staged in tandem with Phil&Ben Productions.

Directed by Marcus Romer, first up from tonight to Saturday is Mike Leigh’s Abigail’s Party, wherein Bev and Lawrence invite the neighbours round. Bev is ready to dance the night away; Lawrence is ready to drink it away. What could possibly go wrong?

The season’s co-producer, Ben Roddy, directs the September 20 to 24 run of Patrick Hamilton’s disturbing psychological drama Gaslight, the one where strange things keep happening to Bella. Things go missing, only to turn up again, and Bella thinks she is hearing noises, but is she? Before long she feels she may be losing her mind.

To conclude the REP back-to-back trio, Amie Burns-Walker directs John Godber’s comedy Men Of The World from September 27 to October 1. Recounting memorable coach trips from their past, three coach drivers take a trip down memory lane, looking at the small and often overlooked moments of magic in our lives

In Autumn 2018, Harrogate Theatre first teamed up with Phil&Ben Productions, alias Phil Stewart and Ben Roddy, to stage a rep revival season in 2018, Phil already being a regular in the Harrogate pantomime.

Paul Hawkyard in the rehearsal room for the HT REP season

HT Rep returned in 2019 with On The Piste, Deathtrap and The 39 Steps and should have staged Abigail’s Party, Gaslighting and Men Of The World in 2020, only for the pandemic to rule that out. 

Traditionally, a repertory theatre company is a group of actors that performs a small number of plays for only a few weeks at a time.

Harrogate Theatre, for example, had operated as a touring venue up to the early 1930s when the growing popularity of cinema and radio saw a decline in theatre audiences. As an answer to the problem, William Peacock, the theatre’s managing director at the time, formed a repertory company, The White Rose Players, one of the first weekly rep companies in the country, and the theatre became a producing venue.

The White Rose Players performed around 45 plays a year and continued through to the mid-1950s. Now, for the 2022 HT REP company, Simpson (all three plays) and Hawkyard (two plays) will be joined by Janine Mellor (three plays); Katie Dean (two plays), Faye Weerasinghe (two plays) and Ian Kirkby (the Inspector in Gaslight).  

Tickets for the 7.30pm evening performances and 2.30pm Saturday matinees are on sale on 01423 502116 and harrogatetheatre.co.uk. Book all three to receive a 20 per cent discount.