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Tuesday, 1 July 2014

Theatre Hullabaloo Secures Arts Council Funding for Flagship Theatre for Children

North East children and young people’s theatre company, Theatre Hullabaloo, is celebrating the news that it has been awarded capital investment of £1.5million from Arts Council England at Stage 1 of their capital investment programme, to realise its vision of a child-centred theatre development on a site adjacent to Darlington’s Civic Theatre. The £2.15million project, made possible by a commitment of £650,000 by Darlington Borough Council, will include a 150 seat studio theatre, family cafĂ©, creative play spaces plus rehearsal and office space for the organisation.

The development, opening in Autumn 2016, will see an artistic and operational partnership between Theatre Hullabaloo, Darlington Borough Council and Darlington’s Civic Theatre. The new theatre, known as The Hullaballoon, will offer a rich programme of performances, play installations, creative curriculum delivery and family-focussed activities which will have an emphasis on opportunities for younger children.

The Hullaballoon will also be a hub for key partnerships with regional universities interested in developing child-centred research in practice, as well as being available for use by local community groups.

The announcement arrived alongside other positive news that Theatre Hullabaloo will retain its core funding and place within the Arts Council’s national portfolio of organisations for the period 2015 – 2018 with an additional £45,000 annual uplift to support its work with children in areas of particular need. Continued investment will enable Theatre Hullabaloo to sustain and develop its work as one of the UK’s leading companies making theatre for young audiences both nationally and internationally, reaching more than 15,000 children in theatres, schools and community venues each year.

The £45,000 uplift in funding will support the development of the annual TakeOff Festival, one of England’s principal festivals of theatre for children and young people, which takes place across venues in the North East of England every October, and sees some of the best theatre companies from the UK and abroad perform in the region for audiences aged from 6 months to 16 years. The additional investment enables the organisation to extend the reach of its annual festival to children in areas such as rural County Durham, where there is currently little cultural opportunity.

Miranda Thain, Creative Producer of Theatre Hullabaloo, said:
“The opportunity to build a child-centred theatre in Darlington is a dream come true and as the only theatre of its kind in the North, the Hullabaloon will have a hugely positive impact for children and families based within the region for years to come. It will also make a significant contribution to children’s theatre nationally and internationally. 

“Theatre Hullabaloo is proud to be part of the National Portfolio and grateful to receive continued funding to bring quality theatre to children and families in our region. The investment also reinforces our position as an important cultural export for the North East.

“Investment decisions have been made in the context of further cuts to the Arts Council’s budget, so we are delighted that, despite those pressures, opportunities for children and young people remain a priority.

“The additional investment in the TakeOff Festival from 2015 onwards enables us to target world-class creative experiences to very young children in communities that wouldn’t usually benefit, building audiences that will be able to enjoy the rich creative programme in Darlington’s new children’s theatre when it opens. These opportunities not only bring communities together, but also challenge the minds, inspire the imaginations and enrich the childhoods of the next generation.”

Sharon Paterson, Chair of the Board of Trustees at Theatre Hullabaloo, said:
“Today’s announcement is the result of an outstanding vision for children and young people and their engagement with arts and culture in Darlington, and the tenacity and commitment of a huge number of people, particularly in the key partnership with Darlington Borough Council. Despite significant financial pressures, the Council’s commitment to the arts and to supporting Theatre Hullabaloo to pursue this ambitious project, has been outstanding and the Arts Council’s support of Theatre Hullabaloo is testament to its commitment to children and young people in our region. We look forward to working with our partners to realise this fantastic opportunity for children in Darlington and beyond.”

Councillor Nick Wallis, Cabinet Member for Leisure and Local Environment for Darlington Borough Council says: “This is excellent news and a welcome support in realising our vision of a Northern Centre of excellence for children’s theatre based here in Darlington.

“We’re committed to making Darlington a place where art happens, where the arts matter and where arts and creativity are central to the town’s future identity and economic success and that is why we’re contributing £650,000 from the sale of the former Arts Centre.  Our strong partnership with the Arts Council and the work of Theatre Hullabaloo has been integral to taking this project forward.

“The funding will allow Theatre Hullabaloo and Darlington Borough Council to create a nationally significant children’s theatre space, in addition to our historic Civic Theatre, promoting excellent arts practice for children and young people while bringing more people into Darlington to take part in and enjoy the arts. But the space is not only for children and young people, it will also be used by the wider community so will benefit everyone in the Borough.”

John Dean, Chair of Darlington for Culture says: “We’re absolutely delighted that the proposal has been granted funding, our members have supported it all along and it will be an excellent addition to Darlington’s arts landscape.”

If you require further information, images, or would like to set up an interview, please contact Kelly Jackson, Communications Officer at Theatre Hullabaloo on 01325 352004 or email

Tuesday, 10 June 2014

Tiny Treasures: The tour begins

Actors Adam Farrell and Leanne Rowley tell us how the rehearsals have been before they step out into the spotlight of the tour!

Adam Farrell, playing "James"
Since I last wrote a blog entry Tiny Treasures has progressed immensely. After an initial period of closely analysing the script, we started to get the play up on its feet. The beginning of the show is told from James’ perspective, and the first days of blocking mainly involved finding playful ways to visualise James’ story, whilst eating a lot of cherries – the company’s favourite mid-rehearsal snack.

Later on in the second week of rehearsals we moved onto heavier territory, tackling a naturalistic scene between James and his Mum. Much like the first James-centric section, Stuart, Leanne and I sat down for a day or so and methodically made our way through the script, sussing out the motivations of each character so that when it came to blocking the scene we were already halfway to understanding the pair’s emotional journeys.

The final week of rehearsals saw the rest of the show come together – Kitty, our choreographer came by to develop the emotionally arresting movement segment, Simon visited to implement the brilliant sound design and Bek made the finishing touches to the amazing set and costumes. Despite being cooped up in a stuffy space, deprived of sunlight, we also ran the show numerous times, making significant improvements to the pace of the play each time.

Personally, I have found this final week of rehearsals very intense and extremely challenging – although that’s not to say I haven’t enjoyed myself. Playing James and being part of Tiny Treasures has been a huge learning curve for me, and as I write this blog entry the night before the first performance all I can hope for is that I do James’ story justice and that the audience get at least a glimpse in the difficult life of being a hidden carer.

Leanne Rowley, playing "Mum"
Hello again! A long overdue blog entry - please forgive, we've been a wee bit busy! Having worked on section 1 for the whole of the first week (it's a mammoth monologue - all delivered by the brilliant AdamFarrell) it was time to move onto section 3 and a contrasting naturalistic scene between Mum and Jamie. Days were long, focus was temple busting, cherries were consumed in biblical proportions and progress was happening quicker than Steve (Stage Manager) getting the pub on a Friday evening. Towards the end of the week the return of Kitty Winter had us bending and lifting and holding our way through section two to give us the basis for what has become one of my favourite sections, a physical metaphor for Mum's decline and Jamie's ascent into the carer role. 

Which leaves us here at the end of rehearsals. Final touches to set have been made, the score is complete, tour schedule is in hand, last minute notes and detail have been worked on and the van is packed - now all we need is an audience! 

Here we go... (drumroll please...)

Adam playing James in Tiny Treasures during rehearsals

Tuesday, 3 June 2014

Tiny Treasures Rehearsal: Week 2-3

Here's how director of Tiny Treasures Stuart Mullins has been getting on in Week 2 of rehearsals... 

Stuart Mullins, Director

Week Three Already!!!!

This is the crucial week, when all the exploration and detailed analysis of the play comes to bare. Inevitably things will change, cuts will be made, actors will ride the blows of directors notes. But we are in a good place; despite us only having worked together for two weeks the team has gelled really well. Adam and Leanne, who play mum and Jamie, are a dream to work with, and Stephen our Company Stage Manager, is a delight. We never stop laughing and taking the mickey out of each other. This week our designer Bek Palmer joins us to finish off on the set, props and costume. Its great to have her back. 

Week Two was really good, we worked with Kitty Winter on the movement and choreography of Scene 2. I wish Kitty could have spent more time with us as the movement was a great contrast to all the words of scene one. I think Adam enjoyed not having to learn anymore lines. The whole piece is very different from anything I've ever directed before. The first scene is essentially a one man show, with one very important  moment with Leanne as mum. But I'd be spoiling it for you if I said what it is. Adam as Jamie has roughly 18 pages of words. They are beautiful poignant and funny words, but its all Adam. The second scene is a visual metaphor for Jamie's situation, no words, some voice over, but essentially two actors physicalising the story. Scene 3 is a more traditional naturalistic scene between Mum and Jamie. You'll have to come and see it if you want to know what happens!

OK back into the rehearsal room, so much more to do…

Leanne and Adam rehearsing the movement and choreography of Scene 2. 

Friday, 23 May 2014

Tiny Treasures Rehearsal: Week 1

The Tiny Treasures team have had a busy first week in rehearsals... but they've managed to let us in on what they have been up to...

Stuart Mullins, Director
It's Wednesday evening and the process of making Tiny Treasures has been intense. We've made loads of discoveries; James' overall objective in the play is to hold his family together. That this will be his life forever, looking after his Mum. What an incredible realisation to have at the age of 13! Today Kevin the writer joined us and was very open to changes to the script; it's great to have him there to respond to our questions. Adam Farrell, who is playing James has been working really hard. He has over 20 pages of script to learn. Its not so much learning the words as knowing what James is doing when telling us his story. I think we've made an excellent start!

Leanne Rowley, playing "Mum"
A blog! Eeek, new to this. Bare with me readers. (I feel there should be some sort of disclosure - 'Any chaotic or rambling passages displayed within are in no way a reflection of the rehearsal period being as such'). For one thing is certain - there is a whole lot of focus going on down at ARC. But that's skipping ahead. (NB that disclosure...) Rewind a few weeks back to our development day in York where I met for the first time a group of young people who are nothing less than inspiring - they are the Young Carers Revolution. And beware, this revolution is in very good hands and is coming right for ya. Strong, witty, honest, intelligent... a few of the words that describe this group of children and young adults that not only have to deal with the struggles and challenges growing up throws at you - they do it whilst also being full time carers. A great day of playing for the first time around the text and movement and getting their initial feedback left me striding on home with one thing very  clear in my mind - this play has to be done right, the characters have to be truthful, for them.

Skip ahead to Monday, first day of rehearsals and after the meet and greet we stretched and played our way into the day with a bit of yoga and some games and got down to work. By mid afternoon Adam (who's playing James, and is forbidden to talk in his native southern tongue), Stuart (our director - an advocate of ale and actioning... I'm in) and I are staring down at a floor strewn with pieces of paper outlining and picking apart Kevin Dyer's beautiful script; we'd found the facts, defined the timeline, discussed structure and began our exploration of character and family. A short break occurred when Bek popped round to show a model of the set - *Spoiler alert* - er - hello! Is that a sink you can crawl through?? And a wardrobe to climb out of?? And a whole heap of other stuff we can scramble over?? (Yeah. We got a bit excited). Wednesday we'd get to see it in full - but right then, playtime was over... we took  up pencil, pulled up a pew, unleashed the script and began 'Actioning'.

So here we are - end of the third day and Section 1 has seen more action then the Avengers could ever dream of! Next up - getting it on it's feet...

Adam Ferrell, playing "James"
It’s only a few days into the rehearsal process for Tiny Treasures, and yet its feels like we’ve already covered a lot of ground! The first week has mainly seen director Stuart, fellow performer Leanne and I investigate the script and delve deep into James’ family – how they operate day-to-day, and for me especially, what drives James. That being said there’s a long way to go and I can’t wait for the challenges ahead and the chance to play about on the impressively cluttered set designed by Bek.

It’s also worth mentioning how much I enjoyed the chance to meet the guys at YCR three weeks ago. Reading the play in front of them was a nerve-wracking experience for me, especially considering they are responsible for creating the character of James! Luckily everyone was very friendly despite a fun but disastrous attempt at trying to teach the group one of my favorite drama games, ‘Schlack’.

Bring on the rest of the rehearsals!

Leanne with Bek's Set Design. Photo taken by Adam.

Wednesday, 14 May 2014

Tiny Treasures Design

Designer Bek Palmer has let us in on her designs for the upcoming Tiny Treasures. Here we see Mum and James' costumes. The designs will be brought to life when the tour starts around schools in the North East in June.

 And here's the model box set... looks like there are lots of clever climbing and hiding routes to be had!

Friday, 9 May 2014

Sharing the Story of Tiny Treasures

On Saturday, the Tiny Treasures creative team (complete with newly cast actors Adam, playing James, and Leanne, playing Mother) reconvened in York for another development day and, importantly, to share the script for the first time with the Young Carers Revolution. Since we met with them in February to devise ideas for what the story might be, there has been a huge amount of activity behind the scenes.

Kevin, the Playwright, has crafted the stories we developed into a fantastic play in three sections which tells the story of James, a young carer who is 13, and what his life is like at home looking after his Mum, his sister Katy and his two fish, Goldie and Silver. Bek, the Designer, workshopped some design ideas with the Young Carers Revolution and, inspired by their mood boards, has created a model of the set design which is now being built in preparation for rehearsals.

Stuart (Director), Kitty (Movement Director) and I spent time auditioning a very talented group of actors in order to find the pair who would play our Mum and son. Stephen, Stage Manager, has been busy researching the kindest way to transport live goldfish and Diann, Tour Coordinator, has been busy organising the show into schools, sorting our van insurance and booking rehearsal digs.

Meanwhile, the young carers have been writing a book about their process and so there was lots to tell each other when we got together again. We showed them pictures of Bek’s set model, which they really liked and then Adam and Leanne did a script-in-hand reading of the whole play, stopping a key points to talk about the action of the play and whether the Writer had made the right choice or not! Apart from a few games and a sausage roll break, we worked solidly to get through the whole play (which is running far too long at the moment so poor Kevin has the challenge of cutting it without losing anyone’s favourite bits!) We all covered loads of big bits of paper with post it note thoughts which will feed into the final rehearsal draft and by the end of the day – and the end of the play – we were all feeling pretty emotional. Once again, the dance duet section in the middle of the piece, even though the actors were just improvising, was the most affecting bit for us all underscored by Simon (Sound Designer) playing beautiful cello and looping it with the voices of the young people.

It’s been a big responsibility to create this play for and with the Young Carers Revolution because it’s so important to us all that it does what they hoped it would, bringing great theatre to younger children and a better understanding of the issues that face young carers. The feedback was all reassuringly positive and particularly Beth’s comment, “It will be really good for other kids, but it’s very moving for us because you’re telling our stories”

I think they liked it.

- Miranda Thain (Creative Producer of Theatre Hullabaloo)

Read more about Tiny Treasures.

Friday, 2 May 2014

TakeOff Monthly Newsletter (May 14)

We've just launched our first TakeOff monthly newsletter presenting a round-up of all the brilliant theatre, dance, drama, comedy and play that is available for children and young people in venues near you each month.

If you want to sign up or know anyone else who would be interested in receiving monthly updates about what is happening the area, all they need to do is send there email address to

There is so much to do in the region in May, so have a read of the newsletter and see what takes you and your family's fancy!

And, as always, let us know about your child's theatre experiences by sending us a tweet @TheatreHullabaloo or post a message on Facebook. Especially if it is their first time to the theatre, use the #theatrefirstie hash tag and they could be in with then chance of winning a prize!

Copyright Theatre Hullabaloo 2009. Arts Centre, Darlington.
Theatre Hullabaloo is a trading name of Cleveland Independent Theatre Company.
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