AFTER receiving more than four times as many applications as commissions available, York theatre company Next Door But One has assembled the next band of Yorkshire Trios – and a quartet – for March 2024.
“That many applicants is a sign of a few things,” says chief executive officer and artistic director Matt Harper-Hardcastle. “Just the sheer amount of talent that is within the local area; that there’s still a need after Covid for local creatives to be supported to get their own work out there, and hopefully that we as a company are seen as approachable and that people want to connect with us.”
Through a series of micro-commissions, York actors, writers and directors are being supported by NDB1 to produce original, short pieces of theatre that celebrate their individual skill and creativity.
“The brief is to create a five to 15-minute solo performance that in some way responds to the overall theme of ‘Top of the Hill’, so this is already resulting in stories of motherhood, grief, love, war and even Kate Bush!” says Matt.
“The writers are working on their second draft after receiving dramaturgical support from our team, and then rehearsals will begin in the early new year.”
The artists taking part will be Sarah Rumfitt, Kate Bramley, Connie Peel, Nicola Holliday, Jules Risingham, Tempest Wisdom, Bailey Dowler, Yixia Jiang, Jacob Ward, Claire Morley, Paul Birch, Harri Marshall and Livy Potter.
They will be working towards a showcase of original performances at York Theatre Royal next March, with more details on performance dates and how to book tickets to be released in the new year.
NDB1’s inaugural 2021 showcase of Yorkshire Trios in the garden performance space of The Gillygate pub marked the first live show in York after the lifting of Covid restrictions.
“At the time, many local performing arts professionals were feeling disconnected from their artistry and were extremely anxious about the future of their careers,” recalls Matt.
“So we listened to their concerns and created a series of micro-commissions to form new collaborative trios of an actor, writer and director, from which original work could be produced.”
One 2021 creative described Yorkshire Trios as “a total lifeline; a lighthouse in a stormy sea”. “Since then, Next Door But One has supported a further 44 creatives with mentoring in such areas as job applications and funding bid writing,” says Matt.
“We’ve always wanted to be an approachable company where creatives can hang their hat. We really believe in investing in the York cultural ecology, so this new iteration of Yorkshire Trios sits alongside our professional development programme, Opening Doors, and our Company Coaching provision.
“That provision is giving quarterly business and peer mentoring to five arts-based companies, Thunk-It Theatre, Story Craft Theatre, Terpsichoring dance company, Moon Dust and CoCreate, each with a different focus and at different stages of their development.”
Looking forward to next March’s showcase, NDB1 associate director Kate Veysey says: “It was really encouraging and humbling to read people’s honest reflections on what Yorkshire Trios could do for them within the application process.
“Some who had never been able to showcase their work in their hometown, others who had faced challenges in creating a professional network or establishing their careers on their own terms, and others who really respected our work and wanted to align their practice with our values. We feel really confident in being able to offer solutions to these points through this project.”
Emerging writer Yixia Jiang’s play Love Letters Before Dawn will be performed by Claire Morley, directed by Jacob Ward. “Working with this group of amazing people in York gives me a chance to take a glance into the local theatre industry and help establish myself as a playwright here,” he says.
York actor Bailey Dowler will perform Jules Risingham’s Anorak under the direction of Tempest Wisdom. “I wanted to get involved with Yorkshire Trios because there’s a lot of local talent in York and this is a perfect opportunity to widen my creative circle,” says Bailey.
“I cannot wait to work so closely with a writer and director. It’s such a rarity to have a one-to-one experience in the rehearsal room and so I’m excited to collaborate together, creating beautiful theatre, fuelled with passion.
“Next Door But One has a fantastic support system and I’m looking forward to being mentored and learning more about the process of creating a play, from outside the eyes of an actor.”
Fellow actor Nicola Holliday will present Sarah Rumfitt’s Toast, directed by Kate Bramley, artistic director of Badapple Theatre Company, and Connie Peel. “Having heard from friends what an incredible and inclusive company NDB1 was to work with, I was eager for the opportunity and chuffed to bits to be cast in Yorkshire Trios,” says Nicola.
“As an autistic, full-time working parent, finding flexible inclusive work can be a challenge and being welcomed with open arms, kindness and understanding by the whole NDB1 team has been lovely.
“Meeting my Yorkshire quartet, such a talented creative and passionate bunch of local folks, I cannot wait to see our piece grow and develop, to be really challenged as an actor and to make some more meaningful connections here in York.”
Writer Sarah Rumfitt says: “Yorkshire Trios has given me an opportunity to explore my own voice within writing, something I have had little time for since becoming a mum.
“Being a creative is incredibly rewarding but also at times lonely. After an initial meeting with NDB1 and the other trios, I already feel more connected and part of an exciting community of Yorkshire-based creatives.”
Co-director Kate Bramley adds: “I’m really delighted to be working with Next Door But One on a brand new short play and mentoring another young director to boot, which makes us a unique four-person ‘trio’! I’ll be very excited to get started in the New Year.”
The fourth Yorkshire Trio comprises writer Paul Birch, actor Livy Potter and director Harri Marshall, combining on Running Up That Hill, the Kate Bush one.
Now that all the Yorkshire Trios have been introduced to one another, they can start creating performances that “really reflect who they are”. “We’ve provided the stimuli of ‘Top of The Hill’,” says NDB1 creative engagement manager El Stannage. “Not only because it then provides an overall theme to the final performances, but also because it brings a bit of the NDB1 ethos into the process.
“As a team, we often talk about what it’s like for us at the ‘top of the hill’; what it looks like when we are at our best, and that’s really what we want to instil in our trios. We want to celebrate each of them and applaud the incredible talent in our area.”
Highlighting how the 2024 Yorkshire Trios will differ from 2021, Matt says: “This version is really building on everything that we learned and achieved from the first time around.
“We’ve scheduled our Opening Doors programme to run alongside Yorkshire Trios this year, so we can offer development workshops for all the actors, writers and directors. We’ve included additional mentoring or adapted roles to suit the desired outcomes of certain creatives.
“The showcase of work will be performed in the York Theatre Royal Studio so we’ll be able to include more aesthetic decisions. And finally, we’ve reduced the number of commissions this time around so that we can increase the commission sum so that it’s more reflective of the work and energy each creative puts into it.”
Matt is delighted that the chosen artists are so diverse in representing York’s arts community in 2024. “As a company we really lead with who we are, and as an LGBTQ+ and disability-led company, we call to others who want to do the same, or want to be in those same spaces,” he says.
“Then the more that happens, the more others see themselves represented in both the industry and on stage, which then calls to more people, and so the process continues. So, it was really important to us that we had a real diversity across our trios, both in terms of identity and also experiences/stages in their career.”
The 2024 Yorkshire Trios – and a quartet
Toast by Sarah Rumfitt
Performed by Nicola Holliday and directed by Kate Bramley and Connie Peel
AFTER giving birth, the midwife brings you toast; simple, medium cut, white Hovis that’s done a quick dip in the toaster, barely browned, overly buttered but the best thing Becky’s ever tasted. If only she knew what was coming…she’d have asked for the full loaf. Following a year-long struggle with post-natal depression, Becky and her son set off on their first walk together; they are going to the top of the hill; a place Becky would often walk alone before becoming “Mum”.
Running Up That Hill by Paul Birch
Performed by Livy Potter and directed by Harri Marshall
ALEX is lost. Alex hates running but loves Kate Bush. They know all the facts about Kate Bush. Kate Bush drinks milk before recording and knows Lenny Henry. Alex is
running and Kate’s voice seems to help. Hill running is the worst and one (bastard) hill has them (almost) beat. This is the story of what Alex is running from and what they are running towards.
Prison is behind them as is their escape from a controlling relationship. Running up that hill is presently painful but it’s a different kind of pain from the past; besides, running up that hill might finally give Alex a clear view…
Love Letters Before Dawn by Yixia Jiang
Performed by Claire Morley and directed by Jacob Ward
A SOLDIER has been defending a battlefield from a hill for the past 100 days. Today he has given up on all chances to defend this place. All hopes seem lost.
However, the soldier keeps hold of his bravery and pride by remembering his fallen commander’s words: “We don’t persist because there is hope. It’s because of persisting, there shall be hope.”
Anorak by Jules Risingham
Performed by Bailey Dowler and directed by Tempest Wisdom
THOMAS (no relation to The Tank Engine) loves trains. His whole life has been spent chasing trains, and always chasing after him was his partner, Charlie. Charlie did not like trains but loved Thomas. Thomas sits alone in his camping chair, on the top of his and Charlie’s favourite hill, looking down on the valley below, waiting for a train to pass that never seems to arrive.
With little to write about in his journal, he spends this time reflecting on his life with Charlie – and working out how to overcome his newfound grief. Thomas achieves a new understanding of grief, and how to keep living in the absence of our loved ones.