Tom Morton-Smith’s new play In Doggerland tells the funny and heartfelt story of four people struggling to move forward under the weight of past trauma. The play explores the themes of organ donation and transplantation; loss and grief; family and home; and what makes up the essence of an individual.
Manchester Theatre award-winning actress Natalie Grady (The Daughter in Law, Library Theatre) will be playing the role of Kelly, joined by Clive Moore (Hobson’s Choice, West Yorkshire Playhouse and The Cherry Orchard, Southwark Playhouse) as Simon, recent RADA graduate Benjamin Blyth (Macbeth, Erasmus Theatre) as Linus and Jennifer Tan (Caucasian Chalk Circle, Shared Experience) as Marnie.
The production is the first national touring production for Manchester-based Box of Tricks, a new writing theatre company committed to developing and producing the best new work around; discovering, nurturing and promoting the next generation of playwrights.
We caught up with In Doggerland Director and Box of Tricks’ Joint Artistic Director and co-founder, Hannah Tyrrell-Pinder.
MF: Tell us a little bit about Box of Tricks and how it was formed?
HTP: The company is 7 years old and we are a new writing company so we have always worked with writers to create new plays, premiere them and help develop their careers. Adam and I founded the company after meeting at Drama School in London and we based the company there for the first 5 years and produced a lot of work on the London Fringe and then began touring. It was through doing this we found we actually preferred performing outside of London and it led us to make our base in Manchester where we have been since February 2012 when we started to focus on with working with North West playwrights. In Doggerland is our first national tour that is going all over England and a little bit of Wales, which is exciting for us.
MF: How important is it to discover new plays and nurture them?
HTP: I think it’s really important. If we are not spending the time building relationships with new writers and helping them develop their craft we will never end up having those plays that are performed again and again and become classics. Everyone has to start somewhere and it’s very exciting to be with someone at the beginning of their career and talk to them about their writing process and the voice they want to project to the world. We love having writers in the room with us, working with their ideas and everyone learning together. It can be really collaborative working on a new play because the ideas are so fresh the writers are interested in what the actors have to say and often take those ideas onboard so they get shared ownership of the piece, which is lovely.
MF: You must see a wealth of new writing, what drew you to In Doggerland?
HTP: I just fell in love with the play. It’s a beautiful piece of writing and a very moving story. I was aware of Tom Morton-Smith as a writer and it was a lovely opportunity to see if together we would have a good working relationship. We had a very short rehearsal period and developmental production. It went well, we liked the ideas we played around with and worked well together so at the end of it we decided lets develop it further and put it on. It took a couple of years for the opportunity to arise and in the meantime Tom was honing in his ideas for the play - then The Lowry came onboard and we started to mould the tour.
MF: How are you feeling as you get ready to embark on your first national tour?
HTP: As a Producer of a company it’s a bit scary of the unknown but as a Director it is outweighed by the excitement of the opportunity to showcase a lovely play and the work Box of Tricks can do. Along with that we get to so many regions that have never seen us before so it will help spread the word about Box of Tricks. Hopefully they will love us and want us to come back, so I can’t wait to get on the road with it.
MF: What’s the biggest challenge with this tour?
HTP: The different spaces we are performing in are perhaps the biggest challenge of going on tour. On our first day of rehearsing my Production Manager came in and marked on the floor the space which was the shortest and the space which was the narrowest and I looked at it and took a really deep breath! You have to consider how you stage a piece in such a way for the actors to compress things down when there’s not that much space between them and the audience. There are a couple of tricky stage directions which include water so that’s a bit of a challenge. It’s kind of the reason we do the things we do-to make the impossible work. You have to ask the audience to take that leap with you and fill in the gaps to make it work.
7th-9th November at 8pm - Lowry Studio, Salford
Box Office: 0843 208 6000
Tickets: £12 (Concessions £10)