Hawkseed Theatre Company recently came to us for a rehearsal period at The Met. We were delighted to welcome them to the space, and it was wonderful to see work being created in our rehearsal rooms. Here’s an account in their own words of their experience rehearsing at The Met and everything they’ve been up to.

“In 2019, in a crowded bar in the centre of Manchester, my good friend and I decided we should make some theatre together. We didn’t really know how, or what, but it seemed like the right thing to do. Both of us had trained as actors. I was now working as a director, whilst Hannah was beginning to explore writing. We carried on drinking our diet cokes (or probably tea, in Hannah’s case!) and went our separate ways. Our optimism and hope were met with a year that that saw theatres closed, the entire nation locked inside. Yet somehow, amidst all this, the bizarre and wonderful birth of Hawkseed Theatre Co.

Like a lot of people, we spent much of 2020 on Zoom. As ideas around Hawkseed Theatre Co started to develop, we created regular online spaces for writers to hear their work read aloud by actors. We began applying for funding, and attended all the online training and one to ones the world had to offer. After generous seed funding from The Production Exchange we felt inspired to work towards a longer running project that would create paid opportunities for over 80 creatives who shared our passion for new writing. What materialised was ROOT. In early January 2021, we were absolutely thrilled to receive funding by the National Lottery through Arts Council England for ROOT. ROOT would see us work with 7 pieces of new writing, providing space for them to be researched and developed with ourselves, wonderful access consultants, and fantastic actors. Five of these were explored online, and the other two were lucky enough to be workshopped at the fantastic The Met in Bury.

Imagine our excitement when, after a year in which most of our work was cancelled, huge amounts of our income lost, and all the ways we knew how to be creative suddenly became impossible, we walked into that rehearsal room for the first time! Of course, things were a bit different – lots of temperature checks, masks worn when walking around the building, and the constant cleaning of surfaces. But what a place! If you haven’t had the privilege of working at The Met, you should find a way. The staff are so incredibly kind and generous, and the rehearsal room was beautiful. A big space, full of natural light, and wonderfully close to a kettle. Not only that, but the town is full of fantastic little cafes and spots to grab a coffee or quick bite to eat – something we did regularly!

Over 2 weeks, we researched and developed A Very Odd Birthday Party by Hawkseed’s own Hannah Donelon, and Billy Buckle and the Stolen Mandolin, by Jim English. The two plays were completely different and equally glorious to work on. A Very Odd Birthday Party is full of traditional music from Ireland and India, and explores life as a first- and second-generation immigrant; fluctuating between naturalism and magical realism, it explores how memory can at once comfort and haunt us. Meanwhile, Billy Buckle and the Stolen Mandolin is a fast paced, chaotic comedy about a young man who accidentally steals Captain Corelli’s Mandolin. Thanks to our time at The Met, we were able to explore how important music is to both of these plays – something that is painfully hard to do over Zoom (if you’ve ever tried to group sing via Zoom, you will know the trauma!). It felt particularly apt to find a home for these workshops at The Met, a place that has hosted some of our favourite musicians over the years.

When we think back to our time at The Met, it really is hard to pick one highlight. Was it the first time we all sat down and listened to each other play music and sing? Perhaps bringing in the brilliant photographer and videographer Aaron Howell who captured all the moments we cherished so much? Or was it collaborating with fantastic local communities and experts to help co author and shape the plays we worked on? Picking a key moment is hard, but for me one of the most outstanding elements  was working with our brilliant access consultants – Chloe Clarke and Stacey McCarthy. Both Stacey and Chloe helped us understand how we can develop this work so that it is engaging and accessible to visually impaired and D/deaf audiences – something that is all too often overlooked in traditional theatre and something that is incredibly important to myself and Hannah.

Being a theatre company who started just months before a national lockdown was not exactly what we had envisioned, and yet it has undoubtedly shaped us by making us acutely aware of what we want Hawkseed Theatre Co to be about. We want to bring imagination, vibrancy, and joy to people. We want our work to be relevant and accessible to as many people as possible. To do this, we’re going to continue to work with access consultants, communities, and artists who are often under or misrepresented on stage. We want to develop, support, and celebrate new writing for theatre. And more than anything, we want to connect with people.

Here’s to our next adventure, and to hoping very much that we can cross paths with The Met again soon…”