Last week my theatre company – Foolish Hope – was lucky enough to spend a week in residence at Trowbridge Town Hall.
We were developing a new comedy called “Shakespeare’s Son! (sort of)”. Set during the early years of the English Civil War, the show is inspired by William Davenant – a gun-running, libertine playwright who claimed to be the lovechild of William Shakespeare.
The writer Tom Mallaburn and I had staged a previous version of the show in Australia, and our aim with this week was to grow the show from sixty to ninety minutes, and adapt the comedy for an English audience. We were joined by a cast of five brilliantly talented performers, a costume designer, and two work placement students from Wiltshire College.
Over the course of the week we took over any spare spaces the Town Hall were able to give us. Our main base was the Selwood Room, but we also spread out into smaller rooms so we could work in smaller groups. This allowed us to make the best use of our week, and we’re incredibly grateful to Tessa, Jess and Julia for working so hard to accommodate us. We were also kept going with delicious coffee and food from the Free Range cafe.
After a week of brainstorming, improvising and script revisions, we moved into The Old Court on Friday. In the morning we filmed some excerpts from the show, and in the afternoon presented a semi-staged version of the script. For this we were joined by friends, staff and students of Wiltshire College, and some of the Town Hall’s staff and volunteers. It was a great experience for all, with huge amounts of laughter (phew!) and some brilliant feedback.
Reflecting on the week, I’m amazed by how much we were able to achieve. We now have a new draft of the script, some brilliant photos and video footage to promote the show, and great audience feedback to share with potential funders. Fingers crossed this will convince programmers to take a punt on an unknown piece of new writing. If so, we’ll hopefully be mounting the show in 2023!
What stands out more than anything though was how welcoming the Town Hall was, and what an amazing resource it is for the local area. We could see so many other members of the Trowbridge community passing through the building – for dancing lessons, artist studios, meetings, film screenings, music gigs or just a lunch in the cafe. It’s a charming building buzzing with life and creativity. As it enters an exciting period of rejuvenation, it’s thrilling to imagine what the Town Hall’s next chapter will bring.
– John Walton, Foolish Hope