Inaugural Event Offers Community Access to Live Theatre

Large cities have such active theatre scenes that it can be easy to forget these offerings are usually limited in the smaller towns that surround them. The committee which organises the annual Irlam and Cadishead Community Festival decided to do something about that by holding their maiden Irlam Fringe Festival on 21st August.

The Irlam Catholic Men’s Club hosted the event, which consisted of six fifteen-minute plays. Producer Jane McNulty says their goal was to bring theatre to “a community that doesn’t usually have access to such a thing.” Interest in the production was huge, and they ended up selling 200 tickets.

McNulty told M44 News that playwrights from around the world submitted 130 scripts, hoping to be included. She read all the plays personally, and after consulting with a second reader, chose the final six productions:

  1. Merlot’s Magic, by Paul Thompson (UK)
  2. Please Report any Suspicious Behaviour, by Rick Park (USA)
  3. Attack of the A&E Zombies, by Jeff Page (UK)
  4. Match of the Day, by Rebekah Harrison (UK)
  5. Up in the Air, by Catherine Comfort (UK)
  6. Dance Night, by Ken Armstrong (Ireland)

McNulty notes that the highlights of the night were “seeing the venue packed to capacity with a local audience from all walks of life and all age groups. We had six fantastic short plays which were well received, including a final play that brought tears to the eyes of many who recognised the situation and emotion portrayed on stage.”

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They used word of mouth, local posters and flyers for promotions, along with social media, mainly Facebook, which McNulty believes worked best to get attention. She feels anyone can mount a successful production if they think thoroughly about how they want things to turn out.

“Get advice from people who have done this before,” she notes. “Have a plan, a plan ‘B’ and a schedule. Start early and secure funds. Get the support of all involved; keep them informed and engaged by being friendly, organised and confident but humble. Delegate only to people you know will deliver.

“Be prepared to do everything yourself if it comes to it to make your product the best you can. Know your audience and give them what they will enjoy; challenge expectations a little. Remember to thank everyone and pay whatever you’ve promised promptly. And, be grateful for the chance to do what you love.”

What are your keys to staging a successful live show?