A Note From Hester

CHIPPY - BEVERLEY EAST RIDING THEATRE - LOCAL IS INTERNATIONAL

Chippy. Beverley. New Zealand. East Riding Theatre. Acting. Travel. Local. Theatre. Lifestyle.

 

A New (Old) Theatre in Beverley.

In September 2014 I was working down Carnaby St in a clothing store. This isn’t a major part of the story- but it explains how as a ready-to-go freshly conservatoire trained actress (RADA dahhhling) I’d ended up working full time selling disgusting clothes to rich tourists and constantly kicking myself for letting the side down whilst still not being able to pay my cheap-for-London-because-I-live-in-a-(charming)-cupboard rent.

Sound familiar? My daily thoughts said the mantra that I was a failure but that somehow it would all be ok. How had I ended up in this situation? Shouldn’t I be Maxine Peake/(insert any other Northern female example oh-wait-apparently-one-is-plenty-enough) by now?

There aren’t many of us ‘Northerners’ who manage to break into the southern bubble and at 19 I’d somehow clung on tight to a golden ticket, only to see it snatch out of view in a bustling crowd of deftly cut industry types that just weren’t me, making it.

It’s Wednesday. I wipe seven specks of denim fibre off the already clean shelves, dream up character scenarios, and shove my face in-between the fake fur jackets when famous actors come in wearing shit caps to look ‘anonymous’ so that I don’t have to serve them. (I wouldn’t worry mate everyone’s looking at their phone anyway.) Don’t get me wrong- I go to the odd casting for a Weetabix commercial- I am living the dream.

On my 19 minute break, I listen to the voicemail from an unknown number. It’s Richard Avery- telling me all about this new theatre that everyone is rallying to make happen in Beverley. I’m chuffed for him- for my home- but at this point, I’m still thinking due to the crap they tell us- that London is really where it’s at. Ah, what a fool I was.

Disclaimer- I’m a Hull girl but I was born in Beverley- it says Beverley on my passport, and I saw a ghost in Nellies when I was a kid (I did! I think. Probably..maybe…) so deal with it.

Anyway. Back to London and those terribly over styled clothes- (no one needs a tassle AND a badge AND rips on their underwear) I get this call about ‘ERT’ and next thing I know myself and then stranger, Ms Annie Kirkman are ‘auditioning’ for A Christmas Carol in a beautiful old totally crazy dusty cavernous room in the midst of building work, a Baptist church in Bev with a possibly mad bloke in baggy pants with a British accent (AKA the talented Mike Friend) barking at us to sing this, read that, don’t bump into that ladder, thanks very much.

It was great. All of it.

Choking on sawdust we are told to mind the various gaps in the floor as another bloke in tracksuit pants comes in- I think he’s the janitor- turns out it’s Clive Kneller no less- funniest character actor around these parts, sniffing out the work. Thank God he did or else we’d have all missed out on a lot of joy.

And then we make Vincent Regan’s adaptation of A Christmas Carol. The first production. I still wish we’d filmed it- that is- the making of it. The making of the theatre. The kids and the kids’ parents sitting in the stalls because there’s nowhere else for them to be yet, watching Mike put his marvellous creations together in the coldest Winter I remember for years. The volunteers in overalls painting/sanding/sweeping around every corner. The laughs and the stress and the beauty of knowing you are making something. The drills competing with the ‘hushed sound of the choir’. Rachel Barnes with her ghostly floating cello. Me burning my wig on a lightbulb. (Nobody ever knew that the Ghost of Christmas Past had a bald patch). And the ultimate incredible success of it all. Ta daaaaa! We’re open!

That production was the best thing that could have happened to me personally,  in terms of a mind-flip about what I knew I wanted my life to be like, but also, just in general for the area, for the people, the place- the countless good times, hard times, sweat and the joy.

The magic that has come out ERT since is testament to that- the people who had put their muscle and time behind their intent- putting in absolute grit and determination- hours and hours of time- the theatre ‘staff’- largely unpaid- still working their arses off today- the talent in the upcoming generations, the actors who are looking around going ‘oh, there’s work here?’ - actors like myself who felt they had to look elsewhere…

It’s not London’s fault. Or the South. It’s over-saturated. Like all capitals, big cities- we dream of the big bright lights yonder-  perpetuating the idea that you have to go elsewhere to find what you are looking for. Not true my friend, not true.

Sometimes out of the darkest times, comes something wonderful…if you listen to that voice. With a bit of steely grit and determination- which luckily comes for free around these parts- you can get quite a lot done.

I guess we all have to remember that and keep it close to us throughout these times too. What’s that phrase, don’t let the ba…?

I don’t live in London anymore. It wasn’t the clothing store’s fault either (alone), I just realised that there’s a lot more to gain from doing and listening to my gut than waiting. I write my own work, I travel, I tour, I enquire, I make. I spent a lot of last year in New Zealand working at the Lyttelton Arts Factory facilitating and directing and when I’m in the UK, in Hull, Beverley- or on tour, going where the work is. I’m so glad to be able to say that in times when people are trying to put up walls, many of us are proving that there are no walls. Just humans. And energy. And more life. And creativity. That everyone has. You don’t have to be rich, to be rich (thank heavens).

And so to ERT- five years or so on… it continues to bloom and blossom. They just got a new sign! Now that is exciting.

I spent the other night in a packed out Beryl… we’ll be rehearsing soon for Chippy- and bringing talented New Zealand fella Tom Trevella across the seas along for the ride…there’s SHEFest with an array of all female incredible talent across all fields of the creative spectrum coming soon (Art/Cabaret/Writing…Anna Bean and more)…there’s music- top class comedy from Lucy Beaumont, Steve Frost’s Improv Allstars…and also look out for Delaney Davidson, international alternative ghost-blues legend bringing Ship of Dreams at the end of August too. And so much more!

We love ERT. There’s music, there’s chat, there’s a community, there’s art, there’s life and you don’t get that with many places because it simply isn’t possible to manufacture or pretend emulate.

And the shows will go on.

Congratulations to the East Riding Theatre, team, and of course the audiences who prove that there is a need and a desire for it. It’s all for you baby!

So what are you waiting for, you going to come and join us?

See you on the other side.

With love.

Hester x

Hester Ullyart will soon be seen in CHIPPY 19th-29th June directed by Adrian Rawlins

She is an actor, writer and maker.

Previous productions at ERT- A Christmas Carol, Sparrow and Blackbird

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