East Riding Theatre continues its Summer Festival with the return of Mike Friend

Published: Tuesday 18th July 2017 by Courtney Farrow

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The Forest is the culmination of two weeks of hard work by a young company and a much-loved director.

East Riding Theatre is currently in the midst of enjoying its Summer Festival of Engagement, Inspiration and Celebration. A huge part of this is the return of Mike Friend, who has previously directed the popular A Christmas Carol, Oliver Twist and the incredible Sparrow.

He’s back at the theatre in Beverley on Friday 21 and Saturday 22 July with The Forest.

“The show is about letting go. Living in ‘the now’. Leaving your baggage in the past and moving on,” explains Mike.

Following the story of a young man who cannot let go of a tragic incident, The Forest is a relatable piece that Mike hopes audiences will connect with.

“Hopefully those with their own past baggage, whatever its nature, will be able to accept that there is only now and tomorrow.”

The acclaimed director has worked closely with a youth company for two weeks to devise the show:

“I always find the experience of working with youth exhilarating,” he tells us. “They are the now and tomorrow. I believe passionately in performing arts and love teaching the craft.”

“Theatre is hard work and the development of reality TV and manufactured performance diminishes it and breeds celebrity, self-importance and the notion of fame.”

Mike sees The Forest as a painting for all to interpret in their own way:

“In theatre, you only get one chance. One chance in front of an audience to be real and honest. And audiences aren’t stupid. They know when a piece of theatre has truth and meaning that can connect in so many ways with their own lives.

The young performers have had large creative control over the devised piece:

“I started with an empty canvas. I had designed images, ideas and writing to work from, but these tools are not applied until I meet the ensemble. I haven’t held auditions, nor given them a script,” Mike explains. “The Forest is evolving as I get to know the cast. I play them to their strengths as performers.”

This collaborative-style of theatre is an excellent learning curve for the budding artists, who have to push themselves as the performance develops.

“The excitement of devised theatre is not knowing, working in ‘the now’ and not imposing. They learn the craft and techniques as we go. I set them creative tasks and my job is to direct their ideas and take them to another level.”

There are three public shows in total across this Friday and Saturday. Mike also encourages anyone who wants to support these upcoming artists to come along and see their work.

“You buy a music album or a painting if you like the artist. Theatre is the same,” he adds.

Adrian Rawlins, East Riding Theatre’s Artistic Director, is particularly pleased to be welcoming Mike back:

“I’m thrilled to have Mike back at ERT working with a company of twenty youngsters. The production promises to be a very exciting centrepiece at the heart of the festival.”

For more information about The Forest and to book tickets, please visit the East Riding Theatre website. 

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Published: Tuesday 18th July 2017 by Courtney Farrow

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