New plays show northern lights

Matt Hartley, writer of Porter Brook, part of A Wondrous Place, Crucible Studio, May 23 to June 1
Matt Hartley, writer of Porter Brook, part of A Wondrous Place, Crucible Studio, May 23 to June 1

Four short plays celebrating four northern cities add up to A Wondrous Place which is coming to the Crucible Studio next week.

Writers, artists, theatre makers and actors have come together to create the quartet of stories challenging the ‘it’s grim up North’ stereotype and exploring fresh perspectives on Sheffield, Liverpool, Manchester and Newcastle.

The Sheffield piece is Porters Brook, written by award-winning playwright Matt Hartley, who says he aimed to capture the special spirit of city folk.

“I grew up in Calver and my parents still live there and Sheffield was the city I knew well from an early age,” he says.

“I worked there in the vacations while at school (Lady Manners, Bakewell) and university (Hull) and have friends there – and ex-girlfriends – and I still spend a lot of time.”

“I was thinking of a character who knows the place so well and then sees it with fresh eyes. I always think it looks different every time I come,” explains Hartley.

He created a character called Adam who has a cycling accident which causes him to lose his memory requiring him to re-discover memories of the city and see things he had never noticed before.

As the play goes on his memory begins to come back. It’s a love story about him his family, girlfriend and his city.”.

Alongside Porter Brook, Electricity by Sarah McDonald Hughes suggests that Manchester can be as glamorous as New York and as romantic as Paris, This One by Luke Barnes explores redemption and forgiveness within the midnight streets of Liverpool and WhatSpaceBetween by Alison Carr portrays an extraordinary encounter with Gateshead’s Dunston Rocket.

Chris Meads directs a cast of: Kathryn Beaumont, Josh Hayes, Sally Hodgkiss and Adam Search.

Matt Hartley won the Bruntwood Prize for Playwrighting, for Sixty Five Miles, a Paines Plough and Hull Truck co-production, whose title refers to the distance between Hull and Sheffield and the distance between a man and the daughter he has never met.

He has just completed a play for next year’s National Connections to be performed by young people across the country and has a long-term project to write a play about Eyam for the RSC. He also writes for Hollyoaks on TV.

In between all this he found time to get married at the weekend in London where he now lives.

A Wondrous Place opened at the Unity Theatre, Liverpool, this week and moves on to the Crucible Studio from Thursday, May 23 through to Saturday, June 1.