Real-life WW1 memories in new Harrogate play

Michael Garside of 6:12 preparing for the new First World War drama at Harrogate Theatre.
Michael Garside of 6:12 preparing for the new First World War drama at Harrogate Theatre.

One of Harrogate’s boldest theatre companies is contributing to the commemorations of the Great War and the Armistice in 1918 with an original new drama for one actor.

6:12’s founder member/director and actor Mike Garside will be tackling 32 separate roles in Here The Dead Voices which has seen him dig out stories about real people, including his own family.

Based on real-life stories, diaries and letters from the First World War, 6:12’s next show is in huge contrast to its last endeavour - Marie Jones’ Stones in his Pockets, an Irish tragi-comedy set against the backdrop of a film location in a small rural Irish village.

This ambitious new production has involved a huge amount of planning and research and a good deal of communication with charities related to the First World War.

The proceeds from sales of the programme of the play, which is to be performed at Harrogate Theatre Studio from October 3-6, will go the local branch of the Royal British Legion in the run-up to the 100th anniversary of the Armistice on Sunday, November 11.

Created with original music and words by the company, the devised drama draws on letters, diaries, songs and texts from people who experienced life in the battle zones and beyond.

But it’s not the first time 6:12 have taken on a mighty challenge.

The tiny company celebrated 10 years of performing in 2016, and a successful decade of creating productions which have been praised variously as “dynamic”, “outstanding” and “frankly stunning”.

The company was formed with the aim of producing plays which other groups were not attempting at that time.

From the beginning, it wanted to be based in Harrogate Theatre’s 60-seat capacity Studio, precisely because of its intimacy and closeness to the audience.

6:12’s first play was Ionesco’s The Chairs which was very well received.

Neither director/actor Mike Garside nor the cast have retreated on their original high ambitions since.

A recent production of Shakespeare’s Hamlet even saw Mike take on every role successfully.

He said: “Every year we try to do something different. That can be in terms of the acting or the technical demands

“But we don’t do anything merely for effect. Every element must work together to create a unified production and I am lucky that people want to come back and work with us each year.”

But Here The Dead Voices is a big step and it will be different, he admits.

“It’s impossible to explore the themes of the First World War without acknowledging the other projects which are happening around the country this year.

“Since we started preparing, some of the company have also become members of the Remembered Network charity and will be wearing Tommy pins at the talk-back which will take place after each evening’s performance.”

So intent is 6:12 on doing justice to the subject in a respectful fashion, it has been in touch with the ‘There But Not There’ project linked to the Remembered Network.

Some of the ‘There But Not There’ figures will feature as an integral part of the production. Poppies will be on sale at each night of 6:12’s new production and will feature in the production on stage, too.

6:12 presents Here The Dead Voices at Harrogate Theatre Studio from October 3-6.

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