On Monday 5 June last year I was at a programming meeting with the producers of Battersea Arts Centre's Collaborative Touring Network, selecting the shows for the Spring 2018 season. These meetings are always great fun and a of a bit of a bun-fight, we span Peterborough, Wigan, Darlington, Gloucester, Torbay, Hull, Thanet, Medway and London, with different audiences, spaces and challenges, but all focused on bringing brilliant theatres to our towns and cities.
When it came to booking Ugly Chief by Victoria Melody it was a no-brainer.
Battersea Arts Centre loves it - see this interview with David Jubb, Artistic Director of Battersea Arts Centre. Those who had seen Vic's earlier show, Major Tom, also raved about their audiences raving about Vic.
So we eagerly booked Ugly Chief, a show, about a daughter, Vic Melody, planning her father's funeral, (her dad is Mike Melody.) They don't always see eye-to-eye. He can be difficult. They have had their fights. But she loves him. She's his daughter. He's her Dad. And thankfully the funeral's not needed because Mike wasn't dying of a terminal disease, he'd been misdiagnosed. So Vic decides to make a show about this. And about the relationship between parents and adult children, about fathers and daughters.
I was quiet in the meeting. I wasn't really up for the bun-fight because on Friday 2 June my Dad had died. Three days before. Dad had been very ill for years. I had gone to this meeting to bury myself in work and theatre is the best cure for any heartbreak.
Only the Battersea producers knew this and as the show was being discussed one of them looked at me, checking in. I raised my eyebrows and shrugged. Because that's also what theatre is for, to have the conversations on stage that we struggle to have in real-life.
And then months later I watch the show. It's funny and charming. Vic and Mike's relationship is pure gold. You should see it. And maybe bring your parent, or your grown-up child. Or any loved one. You will laugh alot, maybe sigh a bit, and you will squeeze a hand in recognition, in appreciation, in memory.
In prepping this blog I wanted to find a picture of me and my Dad, from when he was well. There weren't many. We too had had our fights. He could be difficult. He had a big personality and liked things his own way. He was also called Mike, and had a taste for jazz (there's a live band in the show) though he was more of a rugby man (Mike Melody is a Blackpool FC fan.)
I found a photo, of a wet day, at a rugby match. I found it in a file from my Dad's house that I had been given when sorting out his papers - the file was faded and tatty, and bulging with cards from me, and with reviews, programmes and clippings of shows I had worked on. Ones I had forgotten about, that I hadn't even known he had seen.
He was my Dad, and he loved me. And I loved him.
Creative Producer - Jumped Up Theatre /Platform8
& eldest daughter of Mike Hall - May 1939-June 2017
PS - We always do something extra for each Platform8 festival. We have done bonfire nights, exhibitions, films. Both of the April 2018 shows, Ugly Chief and the lovely children's show Sponge, have fathers and daughters at the heart of them so on Sunday 15 April we are setting up shop in the city centre for a few hours, and have commissioned Thomas Byron Photography to create portraits of fathers and daughters. If you are lucky enough to still have your dad around, book in and create a memory. We'd love to meet you. Booking here.