Steven Atkinson, Artistic Director of HighTide Theatre, has today announced the company’s plans for 2017. The Suffolk festival, which celebrated its 10th anniversary in 2016, is set to continue its winning formula of finding, nurturing and showcasing the country’s best new playwrights at its home in Aldeburgh this September.
This year the company will transfer the productions to East London’s Walthamstow in a brand new temporary theatre space in partnership with Waltham Forest Council. ‘The Mix’ will come to London’s Walthamstow Town Centre for 12 days following the Aldeburgh season, bringing an eclectic arts programme to an area of London which currently has no mid to large scale theatre spaces and where there are consequently relatively low levels of engagement with theatre.
The diverse programmes in both locations will include three headline plays (two of which are world premieres) and a programme of comedy, cabaret, talks and music. The Festival in Aldeburgh will run 12 – 17 September with a Press Day on 16 September. The Walthamstow Festival will run 26 September – 8 October with Press Nights on 26 & 27 September.
HighTide Theatre have produced work from their Suffolk home for the last decade with significant input from their audience. They also have a strong record of transferring a large proportion of their productions to London and across the UK. This structure has allowed writers and their work to reach diverse audiences and gain maximum exposure to the industry.
The new format of presenting productions in both Aldeburgh and Walthamstow will allow HighTide Theatre to invest further in both playwrights and audiences. The company will be able to support developing writers, from identifying and commissioning them, developing their work with their core audience and then guaranteeing them a presentation elsewhere.
Equally essential to the company’s plans is that the Festival allows HighTide Theatre to continue its work developing new audiences, in areas such as Walthamstow, where HighTide Theatre can use their ten years of experience to support Waltham Forest in their long-term plans for cultural development.
Steven Atkinson said:
“This year we’re focused on what HighTide Theatre is renowned for: commissioning bold and timely plays from the best new writers. We look forward to developing and previewing these world premiere productions in our beautiful home of Aldeburgh, and then for the first time bringing the whole festival to Walthamstow, alongside showcasing work by local artists. This new producing model for HighTide Theatre of two festivals allows us to take risks and continue to develop our productions with the input of our audiences in Aldeburgh. And then our new partnership with Waltham Forest Council and the National Theatre enables us to bring our fully formed productions all together to Greater London, where they can be seen by a wider and diverse community who would like a greater cultural provision in their area.”
HighTide Theatre will present two world premiere productions in 2017, Heroine by Nessah Muthy (Host) directed by the Festival’s Artistic Director Steven Atkinson and comic drama Kanye The First by Sam Steiner (Lemons, Lemons, Lemons, Lemons, Lemons) directed by HighTide Theatre Associate Director Andrew Twyman.
A co-production with Theatre Clwyd, Muthy’s devastating exploration of patriotism and nativism in modern Britain follows young ex-soldier Grace as she struggles to reassimilate into society following a medical discharge from the army. Steiner’s first commissioned, and highly original, play will chart the second coming of global pop icon Kanye West. The play takes a timely look at identity and guilt in contemporary culture. Kanye The First is a co-production between HighTide Theatre and Paul Jellis in association with The Marlowe and The North Wall.
Alongside these productions Theresa Ikoko’s Girls, joint winner of the George Devine Award (2016), the Alfred Fagon Award (2015), is set to return. Telling the tale of three young friends who are kidnapped in Nigeria, Ikoko wrote Girls to highlight the stories behind the headlines that quickly become yesterday’s news. Girls is a co-production between HighTide Theatre, Talawa Theatre Company and Martha Rose Wilson.
Lorna Lee, Head of Culture & Heritage, Waltham Forest Council, said:
“Waltham Forest Council is delighted to be partnering with HighTide Theatre for the first time this year. Whilst the borough has a thriving cultural scene we do not have any bespoke theatres and a recent survey of residents showed that this was the cultural provision they felt was most lacking. By bringing the Festival to Walthamstow Town Centre we are able to provide theatre right on residents’ doorsteps. Some of our talented local artists are included in the programme and a number of our young people will have the chance to gain first-hand experience of a professional theatre. We’re proud that our borough is home to one of the most diverse populations in the country and it’s of the utmost importance to us that our cultural programme reflects this diversity. We’re sure that the range of shows on offer will appeal to a wide cross-section of our residents. We also look forward to welcoming visitors from far and wide to experience Waltham Forest’s creative buzz.”
The Suffolk Festival has been a huge success over the last decade, premiering more than sixty productions by now major playwrights including Ella Hickson, Nick Payne and Jack Thorne. At the Festival in Aldeburgh there will be an ancillary programme of comedy, talks, music and plays.
Productions will include Mobile by The Paperbirds, an intimate show that turns a caravan into a treasure trove for audiences of up to 8 at a time, a semi-staged reading of Sea Fret, a paean to her native Suffolk coastline by Tallulah Brown, Apphia Campbells’s Black is the Color of My Voice inspired by the life of Nina Simone, Fringe First winner Katie Bonna’s comic TED talk on the science of lying, All The Things I Lied About and internationally acclaimed singer, pianist and entertainer Joe Stilgoe will pay tribute to much-loved movies in Songs on Film. There will be a programme of comedy including Kieran Hodgson’s 2016 Foster’s Edinburgh Comedy Award Nominated Maestro, as well as talks from actor Sheila Hancock and award-winning children’s writer Michael Morpurgo.
The move to bring the Festival to the heart of Walthamstow will enable Waltham Forest Council and HighTide Theatre to showcase work of the highest quality on people’s doorsteps in an area where 55% of residents are classed within low cultural engagement segments, as well as enabling the borough to develop partnerships beneficial to the area’s cultural sector. Free and discounted tickets are available to those with a Waltham Forest postcode and HighTide Theatre will be working to help young people find routes into creative roles, in collaboration with local organisation Big Creative Training, hosting a traineeship and work experience placements. The full programme in Walthamstow will include a late night comedy and cabaret strand, a series of talks, a site-specific production, Mobile, and a strand of work showcasing and supporting local creative talent. The comedy line-up is set to include: Phil Wang, Suzi Ruffell, Dane Baptiste, Tez Ilyas and Jayde Adams.
Cabaret and music artists include Joe Stilgoe who will perform Songs on Film, The Beatbox Collective and an exclusive preview of new music from Arthur Darvill. Waltham Forest has a younger than average population with increasing numbers of families with young children moving to the area so there will be shows for pre-school children and for school groups. Family work includes Little Angel Theatre’s Me… about a tiny baby penguin, Shark in the Park! based on the books by Nick Sharratt (The Hairy Maclary Show) and Waltham Forest based BeBop Baby with DJ sets from Nostalgia 77 and friends to get your minis up and dancing. The festival will showcase a number of local companies and artists including The Vanishing Man co-written and performed by Walthamstow resident David Aula and director Simon Evans.
In a continuation of HighTide Theatre’s mission to develop new writers, this year the Festival will also showcase two preview productions in both locations before they go on to be developed as part of the 2018 Festival. The debut commissions from Sophie Ellerby and Jon Barton are written under HighTide Theatre’s First Commissions scheme. Alongside the preview productions there will be a series of first play readings from HighTide Theatre First Commission writers, an annual programme working with six writers, paired with Associate Artists to develop ideas from conception to full production.
HighTide Theatre will be partnering with the National Theatre, in Walthamstow, and Snape Maltings, in Aldeburgh, to ticket and market the two festivals.
HighTide Theatre runs 12-17 September 2017 in Aldeburgh, Suffolk, and 26 September-8 October in Walthamstow, east London.