Philip here from Lucky Dog Theatre Productions.
We have played four times at TheatreFest, and this was due to be our fifth. It’s so ironic, as there is a first-out-of-the-hat procedure with picking the acts. In years gone by, we’ve been near the bottom of the list or even not on the list at all (three times we didn’t get picked; one of those years someone cancelled, another an extra venue was found, and the last we didn’t get on the bill at all). So, what happens this year? First act to apply – and coincidentally first out of the hat! Thankfully Bill and Gill, being the awesome people they are, are honouring that for 2021 so we’ll be coming back with yet another show.
Up until now we’ve played MR MERRICK, THE ELEPHANT MAN at St Anne’s (2015), HATS OFF TO LAUREL AND HARDY at Tent On The Square (2017), JACK THE RIPPER: FACTS, NO FICTION at The Guildhall (2018) and THE LAUREL AND HARDY CABARET at The Baptist Hall (2019).
We’ve been asked to share our memories from TheatreFest thus far. Well, I have to start with the weird one from 2015 when we were waiting to do our get in for one of the performances of MR MERRICK at St Anne’s and were sitting, in costume, on the wall by the path. Some guy of dubious parentage came past and muttered some abuse at us and, because I looked at him, he came back and took a swing at me. I just leaned back, so no harm done. Great introduction, though!
We went to a local pub that evening that has karaoke and had a great time. My party piece is doing WUTHERING HEIGHTS – in the same key as Kate Bush. It always stops people in their tracks but I could not have expected that – genuinely – each year we go in there during TheatreFest they know exactly who we are and I get dragged up to do it again!
We loved the space in St Anne’s. So old and unusual and intimate. In 2017 we were playing in the huge tent on The Square. Downsides were that projections (of which we use a lot) were difficult to see, and there was always noise from outside. During one show there were some teenagers on their bikes who were very loud and one of the volunteers asked them to keep the volume down; they were polite and apologetic and did just that. Not something you’d find in many towns! We went out and thanked them afterwards. Upsides were that you had a lot of passing custom, it was always comfortable in there as the breeze would pass through and there was MASSES of storage space! We don’t travel very lightly; even when I think I’ve limited the set design, Tony’s car is still bursting through the roof. Being able to just pick up everything and throw it in a corner rather than dismantle it after every show is a real pleasure I am sure most touring acts can identify with.
The following year, Tony couldn’t get the time off work so I travelled on the train to do my one-man show about Jack the Ripper; it’s all factual as I am an historian and author on the subject and often get pulled out as a rent-a-gob on TV shows. The Guildhall was a marvellous space. It’s atmospheric, old-fashioned and formal. I was surprised how much fun I had by myself that week. Seeing the Irish band CUA playing in the space before my show was one of the highlights. I loved their music and bought both CDs after the show. That’s one of the many great things about TheatreFest – you can get to see loads of shows really cheaply and are able to chance things you might not usually go to.
This is also where I got to meet up with one of my best friends from Sixth Form, whom I hadn’t seen for thirty years – he now lives in Barnstaple. He still hasn’t come to see one of my shows, though!
Another highlight, for me, was the comedy session at The Golden Lion Tap at the end of the first night. I’ve never done stand-up before, but I did a small part of my Ripper show in the style of one and I felt on top of the world. If it didn’t go down really well, everyone was universally polite! Being by myself in 2018 meant that I found myself interacting with the other performers a lot more. It was a lovely atmosphere. There’s video of my weekend here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JjhT8qqCLAY
Last year was a very good one for us. We chose well by picking The Baptist Hall as our venue. We were pretty much full for all three shows, with adults sitting on the chairs and the kids in rows on benches or on the floor at the front. THE LAUREL AND HARDY CABARET went down very well and we got sent some superb photographs afterwards by a gentleman who came to see it. We also saw two amazing shows by other acts at our venue last year, being KOTUKU AND THE MOON CHILD (an absolutely charming puppetry piece) and NATHAN AND IDA’S HOT DOG STAND, a sweet piece of nostalgia that seems to be loved by everyone.
Last year, more than ever, we felt like a fixture at TheatreFest and – as it’s genuinely our favourite of ALL the festivals we play – we were quite happy to be. There’s film from 2019 here: https://youtu.be/4t_Vh5arGwY So, that’s it. Next year – if we’re all still here! – it’s going to be our comedy family version of that 1950’s classic THE RED BALLOON. See you then.
PHILIP HUTCHINSON Lucky Dog Theatre Productions