Britain’s most prolific band of roving performers has overcome a grounded canal boat and a marathon schedule on its way to Royal Leamington Spa.
Mikron Theatre Company will once again visit St Mary’s Allotments to present an open-air, family-friendly play celebrating the Royal National Lifeboat Institute (RNLI).
Despite the troupe’s vintage canal boat, The Tyseley, having an unscheduled stop at a marina due to engine problems, the company have a major new grant under their lifebelts as they head to the glorious patch by canal, river and road.
Mikron has been added to Arts Council England’s National Portfolio, landing £191,000 to spend another four years developing new talent and bringing versatile theatre supporting communities and charities to new audiences in all manner of places.
This year the award-winning company will stage a tale of heroism on treacherous waters during a typically breathless schedule which it is travelling to by canal, river and road as the faithful Tyseley sails on.
Producer Pete Toon said: “The visit to St Mary’s Allotments is always great and this year there is something wonderful about telling a tale of the seas in land-locked Leamington Spa. The RNLI also work inland including during floods in recent years and if you look at their rescue map there is a huge amount of holidaymakers from the Midlands who they have saved on the coasts.
“They are an amazing volunteer organisation out there saving lives and it will be incredible to tell the story as the sun sets over the allotments.”
The narrowboat, built in 1936, had to be lifted out the water by crane three weeks before the national tour began in May after the crew become stranded on the River Soar in the East Midlands. But she is chugging along the canals once more after supporters raised donations in a last-minute campaign.
“We’ve been genuinely amazed by the support we’ve been shown while the Tyseley was out of action,” Pete said. “We want to thank everyone from the bottom of our hearts. It’s all engines go for Leamington Spa.”
The troupe will bring to life the gallant efforts of Britain’s coastal life-savers amid the plum trees and runner beans at the allotments, one of many unusual stops on a 150-date tour.
With live music and audience participation the play, entitled ‘In at the Deep End’, is themed around 200 years of saving lives at sea and is billed as a maritime tale of heroism and selflessness.
Mikron drew a record crowd on their last visit to the allotments, when the crowd lapped up the show from hay bales and plastic chairs in the car park. The Yorkshire-based arts charity capped a fine year by winning the Art & Interpretation category in the 2016 Living Waterways Awards.
Artistic director Marianne McNamara said: “I take the legacy of Mikron very seriously and our promise to make theatre available everywhere for everyone.
“For 46 years Mikron has toured to places that other companies don’t, and that means we are often deep in the heart of the countryside, with no venue nearby, or finding ourselves performing in the most unlikely of places – a boatyard, an allotment site, even inside a tunnel.
“And this year we will be adding youth hostels and lifeboat stations to the places we perform in.
“Our shows are often performed outdoors and for a majority of them you don’t even need to buy a ticket – we pass a hat around at the end.”
This summer Mikron will visit the allotments for the sixth year running as their marathon tour of England passes through Warwickshire. They will also play at Alcester War Memorial Town Hall and Foundry Wood, also in Leamington Spa.
Mikron do phenomenal work staging original, witty plays
A spokesman for the allotments said: “The Mikron visit has become the pinnacle of our social season at the allotments and I have to admit our hearts had a bit of a flutter when we saw the Tyseley being driven to the marina on a flat-bed truck.
“Mikron do phenomenal work staging original, witty plays combining music and audience participation that can be performed pretty much anywhere, to anyone.
“We also look forward to welcoming both allotment holders and visitors to see the allotments in great form this summer as plants, flowers and trees burst into life.”
The company head from north to south each year performing at venues including pubs, cafes, living rooms, village halls, marinas and dry docks.
The versatile cast of four unpack set, props, costumes, musical instruments and lights before bringing their characters, stories and songs to life. This year they will play at RNLI Lifeboat Stations and at the charity’s college in Poole.
In at the Deep End will be performed at St Mary’s Allotments on August 8 at 6.30pm. No ticket is required but a cash collection will be taken after the show. For more information and tour dates click here
More information about St Mary’s Allotments here