Mikron Theatre Company embark on nationwide canal tour

New Mikron Theatre Company members James McLean, Steve McCourt, Rachael Henley, Ellen Chivers Photo

New Mikron Theatre Company members James McLean, Steve McCourt, Rachael Henley, Ellen Chivers Photo by Peter Boyd - Credit: Archant

A unique theatre company takes to the waterways to entertain audiences around the country

A crew of four actor-musicians set sail this month on board Tyseley a theatre company’s vintage narrow boat, to tour the country via inland waterways. They will learn to steer the 72ft vessel, navigate canals and rivers and operate locks, swapping plush theatres and dressing rooms for village greens and beer gardens. The actors are new members of Mikron Theatre Company based in Marsden, just outside Huddersfield who have been selected from more than 450 hopefuls from all over the country. The company travels by narrow boat throughout the summer months, mooring up at canal-side venues, often idyllic country pubs, and setting up the show in the beer garden, where the audience are treated to an evening of theatre against the backdrop of a setting sun.

Mikron annually contracts a company of four actor-musicians and commissions two shows with original music.

The shows, rooted in social history, tell the stories of ordinary people caught up in big events, always in a way that is witty, fun and accessible.

One of the actors, Steve McCourt described the prospect of spending the summer on board Tyseley as a truly unique opportunity. ‘What I am most looking forward to about working for Mikron is the boat, the pubs and the graft; but mostly the pubs!’

James McLean, another of the new actors said: ‘I’m excited about touring the country visiting interesting and unusual venues, meeting the different audiences along the way, and navigating Tyseley will be great too - I have never driven a narrow boat before but I’m up for the challenge.’ All four actors are also accomplished musicians and talented singers and have to be able to play a range of different characters, often swapping roles within a single line of text, and all this with the minimum of set, props and costumes.

The company is rehearsing the first of two new shows for 2015, Raising Agents, a celebration of 100 years of the Women’s Institute, written by Maeve Larkin, with original music by award-winning duo O’Hooley and Tidow and directed by Marianne McNamara.

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Rachael Henley, another member of the new team, said about the show: ‘I believe the inspiration was a Yorkshire WI and I feel very proud of being from Yorkshire. I am also excited to explore and throw out the perceived notion of what the WI is - it certainly isn’t just “twinset and pearls”.’

The production will open at the Lawrence Batley Theatre, Huddersfield which is a venue one member of the team knows well, although from the other side of the curtain. Ellen Chivers went to university in the town and maybe one or two of the regular theatre goers will feel as if they’ve seen her somewhere before - Ellen spent her student years working behind the bar at the theatre.

Once Raising Agents is up and running, the performers will head back to the rehearsal room to start work on the second show, One of Each, a celebration one of Britain’s favourite dish, fish and chips, written by Deborah McAndrew and directed by Chris Honer.

Both shows open in the North of England this spring before touring nationally until the end of October. For more information about the company and its work go to mikron.org.uk