Monday, 19 December 2011

‘To Live Would Be An Awfully Big Adventure’

The following is an extract from a dissertation by alice harbourne, a student of anthropology at edinburgh university.

She talks about her time shadowing the company in rehearsals and performances of 'The Boy James' in Edinburgh 2011.

- - - - - - - - - - - CONTAINS SPOILERS - - - - - - - - - - -

‘To Live Would Be An Awfully Big Adventure’

Having witnessed the performances day after day, I did not notice a visible tiring of the cast, in fact the performances often appeared to depend on how the actors perceived the mood of the audience – the performance was dialogical in this respect.

Jethro, for example, had played the same character in ‘The Boy James’ on and off for about a year, and on asking how this affected his ability to improvise, he gave me an illuminating response:

There are things that the audience will think are special that actually happen every night, but they feel like they’re happening for the first time. But there are other things that genuinely do happen differently, like later on in the show people come over to me and obviously that’s really touching as at the end of the play the boy is most vulnerable, so when audience members come over and return an item, or give the Boy James a cuddle, or a pat on the head - that does happen relatively often - each time it does feel very special, it’s a really meaningful thing. The show is improvised, but based on the experience of having done it dozens of times (Interview, 04/08/2011).

To put his statement in context, it is necessary to briefly outline the play Jethro is referring to. ‘The Boy James’ by Alex Wright centres on a character called The Boy (played by Jethro), who undergoes a traumatic event involving The Girl (played by Lucy), which forces him to accept his fate in becoming an adult: he must leave the ‘childlike’ desires, wishes and make-believe of youth behind. This change is further highlighted by the presence of The Adult James (played by Dan), who quietly and mysteriously rejects the Boy’s plea for him to continue on the adventures that in the play typify childhood. This interaction is most poignant when The Adult James leaves The Boy for the final time alone in his study, with just a written note that the illiterate child cannot read. The character thus makes a plea for an audience volunteer to read the letter for him. He then takes their hand and seats them at a desk in the centre of the room and asks them to begin. Each time I saw the play, not only did someone always volunteer, but also the reader was consistently visibly emotional in response to the letter’s content; in two out of six performances I witnessed, the readers cried.

Wright’s play is heavily symbolic and can thus be widely interpreted, and Jethro’s experience of playing The Boy indicates the many possible reactions audience members can have. On a practical level, the play is restricted by a number of ‘frames’: a script, a series of rehearsed movement, action and speech, which are repeated constantly for a month. Even so, ‘real’ moments of human emotion cut through what could have easily become mundane (Schechner, 1977). Immersive theatre in these instances seems characterised by relationships between audience members and actors which transcend the hyperreality of the constructed authenticity of the show. Conversely, the complete opposite could be argued. These moments of intimacy could be seen as products of total hyperreality – the audience members are so convinced by the simulated reality the ‘world’ that the play presents, that they appear to act as if Jethro is in fact a vulnerable child by comforting and touching him.

To interpret what is going on here is a complex task. One might assume audience members are indulging in a ‘willing suspension of disbelief’ (Coleridge 1818, cited in Emigh 1996), however it would seem the fullness of Jethro’s performance as the Boy, combined with the immersive ‘world’ that the set presents, induces ‘delicious instants of complete illusion’ (Stendahl 1823, cited in ibid). By inducing belief within the audience, Jethro becomes a child who has undergone a traumatic experience for the first time, who must be cared for by his ‘friends’ in the audience. In this example, for Jethro it is ‘the real’ which matters most. The most memorable audience reaction he experienced, for instance, was an elderly audience member who reassured him as she left the play with the words, ‘to live would be an awfully big adventure’, alluding to the script of Peter Pan in Barrie’s most famous work (2007 [1902]) in which Peter says, ‘to die would be an awfully big adventure’ (121, my emphasis). For Jethro, these moments were touching on a personal level, and were what made the experience varied and meaningful as opposed to simply routine. They also condensed the joy of acting in immersive theatre for Jethro, in that to live as a real character was an adventure, and what made the repetition of performances bearable.

This chapter has sought to demonstrate that ‘reality’ was a notion created in the discourse of Belt Up as an ideal to strive for in both performance and aesthetics. It was precisely because this concept was a fiction born out of discussion, however, that when it came to realising the show materially, the concept as ideal became a concept of limitation. After the final performances at the end of August, in the depth of night, I joined the team to begin deconstructing the set. Objects were variously torn, discarded, and offered up to individuals. Their meaning vanished along with the imaginary worlds that would no longer be created; this temporary home was destroyed and the space restored to its original state of disrepair.

'The Boy James' returns to London from 25 Jan - 11 Feb 2012 and at the Adeliade Fringe Festival from 24th February - 18th March 2012. Full details at

Friday, 9 December 2011

Belt Up Theatre goes International

We are delighted to announce that 'The Boy James' and 'Outland' are to play the Adelaide Fringe Festival 2012.


by Alexander Wright

A dark, beautiful tale of a boy's heartrending awakening to the harsh realities of adulthood. A truly intimate experience from the inimitable Belt Up Theatre, "Edinburgh Fringe Royalty" (Time Out). "Just been knocked out by 'The Boy James'! Still drying my eyes" (Stephen Fry). ***** The Scotsman. ***** Fringe Review.


by Dominic Allen

Belt Up Theatre, "Edinburgh Fringe Royalty", invites you into a delightful world of childhood dreams and weird, wonderful characters. Inspired by Lewis Carroll’s life and work, 'Outland' will guide you back, deep into the imagination you'd forgotten you'd forgotten. Where will your dreams take you? "SIX STARS!!" (Broadway Baby).

visit for full details

Thursday, 8 December 2011

Audience Reviews: on THE BOY JAMES

here are some reviews from our audiences:

‘This production was beautifully done..... Quite simply STUNNING!!!!!’
Madeline Reid

‘Everything Stephen Fry said, then double it. Powerful and moving, taking the audience on an emotional roller coaster, the performance haunts long after leaving the theatre.’
Pamela Wood

‘Delightful and sensitive play, performed brilliantly by the "Boy James". See it if you can.’
Paul Kustow

‘Immersive and so well-conceived and delivered. WEll done’
Karthik Kumar

‘I couldn't stop thinking about "The Boy James" over the next 24 hours. It's rare for a piece of theatre to haunt you but this will.’
Mr M J Weedon

‘Top class … Terrific acting, especially from the male lead.’
Michael Hubbard

‘A great experience. Very moving.’
David Goodrum

'The Boy James' returns to London from 25 Jan - 11 Feb 2012. Full details at

Tuesday, 6 December 2011

Year of the Producer: A blog for Whatsonstage

Belt Up's Co-Artistic Director and Producer, Jethro Compton, has written a blog for Whatsonstage's Year of the Producer.

A wise old man once warned me that producing can be a very lonely business. Of course producing does have its fabulous show business qualities; opening night galas, champagne breakfasts and private auditions with gorgeous young actresses. However, you spend the rest of your time alone with your thoughts; you lie awake at night panicking about ticket sales, panicking about your cash flow, generally panicking – and the whole time making sure there is enough money in your account to purchase that all important one-way ticket to a non-deportable country and start your new life.Being an independent producer, at times you are the captain of your own ship, with a full crew, a glorious destination and engines running full steam ahead. At others your ship is sinking, your crew has drowned, the water is rising and all the lifeboats have f****d off.

Over the past few months I’ve felt a real change in the way I work with other producers – even the way I socialise with other producers. A lot of people see them as the competition… the enemy. The reality is that we all share the same enemies and actually by working together, sharing and helping each other as producers, individually we all become far stronger.

Stage One gives you that network. It’s not quite a safety net, but it’s a close a thing you’ll get to a safety net. Whether that’s through the training, workshops and seminars that they offer, which prepare you as best as possible for the journey ahead, or the connections they make between us all, Stage One develops a network of people throughout the industry of all ages, experiences and backgrounds.

Producing independently is one of the most satisfying and rewarding experiences in theatre. To be working for a producer and to be part of that experience is obviously brilliant. But to work independently, or as an equal, the theatre you make is your theatre. It isn't someone else's artistic vision. It's yours. And what better way to learn than to just do it? And if you get it wrong? Even better. It's the mistakes that mean something. Successes are pure luck.

And as much as I love the Apprentices, I do love reminding them of the fact I get to have a lie-in whenever I like. And I can take a lunch break all afternoon if I want. That is, if I’m not too busy having nap… or if I’ve gone home early. Or not come in at all. And of course there’s naked Friday. I bet they don’t get that in their West End offices.

For more articles from our Year of the Producer series, visit

For further information about the producers taking part, click here.

Jethro is the producer of 'The Boy James' which returns to London from 25 Jan - 11 Feb 2012. Full details at

Saturday, 3 December 2011

'The Boy James' - The new image

This is the new image for 'The Boy James'. The photo comes courtesy of Claudine Quinn.

You can find out more about Claudine and her work at

The Boy James' returns to London from 25 Jan - 11 Feb 2012. Full details at

Neil Gaiman talks briefly about 'The Boy James' returning to London

'The Boy James was the highlight of the Edinburgh Festival for me, last year.'

After the performance this summer - during which Neil graced us with his wonderful reading skills -he tweeted, 'Incandescent drama. Moving and beautifully played.'

'The Boy James' returns to London from 25 Jan - 11 Feb 2012. Full details at

Monday, 28 November 2011

THE BOY JAMES returns to London




in association with SOUTHWARK PLAYHOUSE

25 January – 11 February 2012

the Goldsmith, London

Belt Up Theatre’s runaway success returns to London for three weeks prior to its international debut in Australia at the Adelaide Festival

From multiple critically acclaimed and sell-out runs in London and Edinburgh comes a dark, beautiful tale of one boy’s awakening to the harsh realities of adulthood. Play with him, and take his hand as you lead him back to Neverland.

After a run at Southwark Playhouse in January 2011, The Boy James is returning to Southwark for three weeks as part of Southwark Playhouse’s ‘Out and About’ programme. The show will make a new home above The Goldsmith, a bar and restaurant originally built as part of the London Fire Brigade Station. The company will be transforming the space into a fully formed immersive environment.

Jethro Compton will continue his role of The Boy and will be joined in this production by Belt Up regular Serena Manteghi as the Girl (Lorca is Dead, Quasimodo, Antigone, Atrium, The Tartuffe) and co-Artistic Director Dominic Allen as James (Macbeth, The Tartuffe, The Trial, Lorca is Dead, Quasimodo).

Wednesday - Saturday 7.30pm

25th January-11th February 2012

the Goldsmith, 96 Southwark Bridge Road, London, SE1 0EF

tickets £15 (£13 concessions)

available from Southwark Playhouse

book online at

call the box office (10.30am - 6.30pm) on 020 7407 0234

Acclaim for The Boy James:

‘Just been knocked out by The Boy James… Still drying my eyes’ Stephen Fry

‘Belt Up’s finest performance’ The Stage

‘Moving and beautifully played’ Neil Gaiman

‘Riveting’ ***** The Scotsman

‘Superbly realised’ ***** Fringe Review

‘Magnificent’ ***** Fest Mag

Flawless’ **** Whatsonstage

'The Boy James' returns to London from 25 Jan - 11 Feb 2012. Full details at

Thursday, 18 August 2011

Twenty Minutes to Nine - Images

A selection of photographs from Twenty Minutes to Nine.

Photographs by Jethro Compton.

Twenty Minutes to Nine features as part of the Edinburgh Fringe - find more information at

Sunday, 14 August 2011

Belt Up wins Bobby

Belt Up's OUTLAND is the proud winner of the first ever Bobby - the Sixth Star award from Broadway Baby.

Tickets for the show and more information can be found at

Thursday, 11 August 2011

Highlights - Reviews at the Fringe

The Boy James

‘Belt Up’s finest performance’ STAGE
‘magnificent’ ***** FEST
‘moving and beautifully played’ NEIL GAIMAN


‘Belt Up has a big reputation to live up to. Outland proves the hype is entirely justified’ STAGE
'perfection' ***** BROADWAY BABY
‘Inspired and awe-inspiring, Outland is a true credit to the future of theatre’ ***** FRINGE GURU
‘enthralling’ WHATSONSTAGE

Twenty Minutes to Nine

‘Lucy Farrett is mesmerising’ **** THREEWEEKS

'captivating' STAGE

'transfixing performance... funny and haunting' NEIL GAIMAN

'mind-blowing actress' AMANDA PALMER

photographs by Radek Slomnicki

Saturday, 6 August 2011

Southwark Playhouse Needs Your Help

Southwark Playhouse has become a home away from home for Belt Up over the last three years.

Since they first invited us in 2009, we have presented a number of shows in their incredible spaces.
The Tartuffe, The Trial, Lorca is Dead, Atrium, Quasimodo and The Boy James have been performed in the Vaults and Main Space and earlier this year our production of Macbeth was produced with the help of Southwark's Press and Marketing team.

Our producer and co-artistic director Jethro has also been made Associate Artist at the Playhouse; offering support and a home to an indepentant artist and developing the relationship between an established and well known venue and an aspiring theatre producer.

There is no theatre or team like Southwark Playhouse anywehere in London. Their ambition and determination rivals that of any major producing house and their commitment to the arts will pave the way for the next generation of theatre companies, writers, directors , producers , actors and audiences.

Southwark Playhouse is invaluable.

Click here to read more about the difficultie the Playhouse is facing due to the London Bridge Station Redevelopment.

Twenty To: Our First reviews

We were delighted to have Neil Gaiman and Amanda Palmer along to one of the first performances of Twenty Minutes to Nine.

Here's what they said (on Twitter):

'transfixing performance... funny and haunting' NEIL

'mind-blowing actress' AMANDA

Amanda's show,
Evelyn and Evelyn, is playing in Edinburgh from 17th - 21st August.

More information on our Edinburgh run at

Monday, 1 August 2011

The Penthouse - Belt Up's New Home at the Fringe

The Penthouse, as it's become known, opens on Wednesday and will be the home for Outland, Twenty Minutes to Nine and The Boy James until 29th August.

For tickets and more information visit

Friday, 22 July 2011

Edinburgh Fringe - eProgramme

The programme to accompany our season at this year's Edinburgh Fringe Festival.

Please click on the box below to view.

Tuesday, 19 July 2011

Tim Crouch reccomends...

Edinburgh fringe veterans share their past experiences and highlight their picks for 2011.

One of our favourite theatremakers, Tim Crouch, talks to Maddy Costa of The Guardian. Asked what to look out for at this year's Fringe he says, 'Anything by Belt Up'.

Thank you Tim.

Click here to read the full article including tips from Mark Ravenhill, Isy Suttie and Richard Herring.

The Boy James, Outland and Twenty Minutes to Nine are at C venues 3-29 August. More info at

Tim Crouch's I, Malvolio, is at the Traverse Theatre 16‑28 August. More info here.

Sunday, 17 July 2011

OUTLAND - Dominic Allen talks about Belt Up's brand new show

DOMINIC ALLEN talks about OUTLAND, BELT UP's new show inspired by the life and works of LEWIS CARROLL.

How did you come up with the idea for Outland?
The idea of Outland came to me while I was on the train on a very nice day. We had been talking about the potential of a sister piece to The Boy James and as I was watching the landscape roll past the train window, I couldn't help thinking about Lewis Carroll; how fun it would be to write a play that's about his work and his life, which he appears in. I thought an adaptation of Alice would be a bit predictable and so I had a rummage around in the hope of finding something people don't know so well. I came across Sylvie and Bruno, in which he's already written himself into it more or less (it's quite subtly done) and, ironically, one of the earliest scenes is on a train. So that was that.

What do you look for when thinking about writing a new piece?
When I'm trying to write something new I'll become super-absorbent. I'll soak up and scrutinise everything I see, or hear, or come across and ask myself how it could fit into a story. Sometimes nothing sticks together and therefore nothing gets written. But then, on occasions such as with Outland, I think to myself 'Hang on, that might just work'. It has to excite me and it has to make me think that it's going to be worth the time and toil I'm going to have to put in, because I know I always get to a certain point when writing a play where I wish I'd never started. So, in short, it's got to have something that hooks me and something about it that's going to keep me going.

How does Outland compare with previous plays you have written?
I'm very interested in writing about historical figures and in historical settings. Lorca is Dead, for example, was made up entirely of real people. So in Outland I have that same sort of challenge to get to grips with Lewis Carroll's life but, also, I have a lot of leeway to play around with it and make stuff up. So, it has a few connections to other stuff but I think, on the whole, Outland will be a new direction for me.

If you could sum up Outland in 3 words what would you say?
I'd use a quotation from Hamlet (Act III, sc i) : '...Perchance to dream'

What can audiences expect from Outland?
They can expect a lot of typical Carroll nonsense and characters; there's a fair bit of Wonderland and his obsession with puzzling logic. However, you'll also meet some new characters, if you're not familiar with his more obscure work, and perhaps another much more profound, sentimental, philosophical side to him. The play has its surreal, absurd moments that you'd inevitably expect but it's also touching, sweet and introvert.

What do you believe creates a good piece of theatre/writing?
A good piece of theatre relies on taking the writing and making it into an experience. That experience needs to rhyme with the text and help externalise what's going on for the characters. Any play where you come out feeling very sorry or very happy for a fictional character is always a good play, and if it's possible to make that experience unique for each audience member, then all the better! As for good writing, I think that relies on telling a good story and telling it well. Keeping the audience on their toes and keeping them engaged. It's not just what you say but how you say it.

OUTLAND runs alongside THE BOY JAMES and TWENTY MINUTES TO NINE at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe this summer.

More details can be found at

Tuesday, 12 July 2011

The List - Belt Up among Highlights

'The theatre shows to look out for at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe 2011'

The List

Belt Up's three shows are listed alongside companies such as Analogue with their 2401 Objects and, of course, Marc Almond in Ravenhill's Ten Plagues.

Monday, 11 July 2011

Outland: The First Rehearsals

Photographs by Alice Harbourne

Friday, 8 July 2011

A True Critic

'A period of self-evaluation is never a bad thing. Surely if a theatre artist works continuously they’ll eventually begin to produce some disappointingly tired pieces – it’s only natural that the real energy comes at the start, and we start to dwindle at the end of a run. I think of the Belt Up Theatre gang, and how they seem to constantly be in a state of flux, and whilst they are being hailed as the new wave of British theatre companies, they’re also letting the odd show reach us that disappoints. The importance here is that whilst they have been rocketed to a certain level in new theatre making, they need to take time out to reassess, and to find the passion and project that will propel them forwards even further'

Jake Orr
A Younger Theatre

You can read the full article here.

Friday, 1 July 2011


This email came through to Belt Up yesterday evening.

Thanks Lisa, glad you enjoyed the shows.

'Dear Beltup,

We recently came to the Theatre Royal in York and saw your production. Thank you for a truly wonderful evening I cried and cried.

I wanted to email my applause:

clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap clap.

Lisa Green.'

'The Boy James' will be running at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival 2011 alongside two brand new shows.
For more information please visit

Wednesday, 29 June 2011

Review from the York Press: 'Atrium' & 'The Boy James'

Atrium and The Boy James, Belt Up Theatre
4:24pm Friday 24th June 2011
By Charles Hutchinson

THESE two new plays from the York Theatre Royal company in residence made their debut at the 2010 Edinburgh Fringe as part of Belt Up Theatre's bold project The House Above: ten devised works performed in different rooms of a purpose-built house.

They are united again this week, each staged in a cluttered study and linked by not only a common theme of the artistic mind, life and loss, but also a desire to release the imagination and heaps of audience participation. A couple of the cast overlap too, as do certain actions, such as pouring a drink from a decanter and hitting a head violently on a table, and the influence of fantasy is pervasive.

Written by James Wilkes, the charming yet anarchic orchestrator of Belt Up's reinventions of The Tartuffe and The Beggar's Opera, Atrium comes from the experimental end of the company's spectrum: the absurdist Monty Python/League of Gentlemen end that more divides opinion like Marmite.

Wilkes blurs the line between fact and fiction on a "surreal journey through the subconscious mind of ageing artist Malcolm Kinnear as his self-obsession tears apart the life around him". Such a part could only be played by Belt Up's master of the deluded, the deranged and the despicable, Dominic J Allen, a provocateur with Macbeth and Mr Peachum on his CV already.

Under the direction of Jethro Compton, he is an even looser cannon here, and yet such is Allen's dangerous energy, quick wit and cabaret MC skills that he keeps you onside as Kinnear indulges in flights of fancy to drive beyond distraction his biography writer, Paul (or is he Simon?, as he equally often calls him), played by Wilkes. The women of the piece,Serena Manteghi's Pennie in a hotdog suit, and Lucy Farrett's servant girl Butter, are pulled hither and thither by Malcolm's twisted need to make his life sound more interesting.

The play follows the same trajectory, never quite climaxing. However, then comes one of the best pieces in Belt Up's rapidly expanding portfolio, Alexander Wright's The Boy James, a haunting story of playful innocence and cruel experience woven around the life of Peter Pan author JM Barrie, directed with devastating impact by Allen.
Initially, the audience is cajoled into childhood games by Jethro Compton's pyjama-clad, wide-eyed Scottish boy James, but playfulness makes way for darker materials: the harsh arrival of adulthood, as represented by Wilkes's older James and Farrett's Girl undergoing her sexual awakening under the influence of "poison" (alcohol) with an unwilling boy James. The inner child in us all slinks away, crushed by the innocence-terminating letter from the adult James, read by a man drawn out of his front-row seat by the boy's pleading.

No wonder a certain Mr Stephen Fry felt moved to tweet "Just been knocked out by The Boy James. Still drying my eyes" upon seeing it last year. A second Edinburgh run and five-star reviews await from August 3 to 29.

More information can be found at

Whatsonstage Review - 'Atrium' and 'The Boy James'

Atrium/The Boy James (York)
Date Reviewed: 22 June 2011
WOS Rating:

Belt Up are never going to please everyone when they experiment with what theatre can be in 2011. But then, you can’t make an omelette without breaking a few eggs. Actually, they don’t make an omelette during their double bill of new writing, although an egg does get broken during a delightfully ill-advised juggling incident.

First up is Atrium, a slippery little play about unreliable narrators. We are personally greeted by born entertainer Malcolm Kinnear (Dominic J. Allen), a man intent on having his life written up into a best-selling book; the thing is, he doesn’t so much play fast and loose with the facts as consider them wholly irrelevant to the story he wants to tell. Atrium’s playwright James Wilkes spends a great deal of time on stage as ghost-writer Paul, trying to coerce Malcolm into cooperating. The levels of meta-theatricality range from the disturbing to the absurd to the hysterical, and at times it’s like a cross between Luigi Pirandello and Harry Hill. For some, it will seem ludicrously indulgent, and many will struggle to keep up with the labyrinthine plots. But then, that’s sort of the point: the audience both shares the frustration of the painfully put-upon writer and revels in the central character’s irrepressible lies; both are, in fact, a pleasure to watch.

The second half of Belt Up’s evening is Alexander Wright’s The Boy James, which explores the state of mind irrecoverably lost in the transition from childhood to maturity. Drawing on the life of J. M. Barrie, Jethro Compton gives a flawless performance as a little boy desperate to remain just that, strongly supported by Lucy Farrett as a girl all too eager to give up her innocence. With audience involvement not merely encouraged but entirely necessary to the plot, the piece combines the beauty of youth’s simplicity with the sharp sting of disenchantment. My one complaint is that The Boy James, like the sense of youth it captures, is all too short, and some of the poignancy of the conclusion is lost in its abruptness. Although, because this is Belt Up, you’re allowed to take matters into your own hands: wanting to linger longer in the moment, I stayed until the rest of the audience had left so I could do something I’d been desperate to do throughout the performance – namely, give a lost boy a comforting hug.

Theatre should make you want to leap out of your seat and intervene, and this talented company allow you to do just that. Belt Up don’t want applause, they want to make you feel, and surely there is no nobler goal for theatre to strive for. While these pieces of new writing aren’t perfect, they are diamonds in the rough: York can feel justly proud of its homegrown talent.

'The Boy James' will feature as part of Belt Up's Season this summer at the Edinburgh Fringe Fesitval. More information via

Thursday, 16 June 2011

'The Importance of Adventuring'

A card from a member of the audience who came to see 'The Boy James' in January in London:

To the Cast & Crew of 'The Boy James',

Thank you for one of the most enjoyable evenings of theatre I've ever had.

'The Boy James' was horrific and beautiful; despite the dark subject matter, I left feeling happy. Perhaps I was reminded of the importance of adventuring.

Details of upcoming performances of 'The Boy James' can be found at

Wednesday, 15 June 2011

The New Tea Boy

Since making first contact with Belt Up in February I have been waiting in anticipation and nerves about coming to York to work on two acclaimed shows Atrium and Boy James. After seeing the work during Edinburgh fringe in 2010 and 2009 I have been itching to be involved and now heres my chance. I am full of nerves and excitement for the two weeks ahead in York theatre royal meting and working with a lot of talented people and trying not to freeze and actually do a decent job.

I am coming to the company with a small amount of experience in Production but what I lack in knowledge I can hopefully make up with cups of tea. Being described to the twitter community as the new tea boy on your first day does hold some level of expectation.

I am currently residing in Edinburgh whilst completing BA Hons Drama and Performance at Queen Margaret University specialising in Contemporary Performance and Arts Management. Becoming a jack of all trades master of none, but hopefully becoming more employable in the process. Away from Edinburgh I am originally from Dudley West Midlands home to some of the countries great performers Julie Walters, Lenny Henry, Frank Skinners, and Matthew Williams. Ok maybe not frank skinner but you get the jist. Coming t York is a home away from home with good food good beer and an awful accent, safe to say I think I will fit in pretty nicely.

Not only will I be working on the shows in York but also very delighted to be working with the company in Edinburgh on 2 brand new pieces, which I am thrilled about. Not only the opportunity to work again with the company but at such a great theatre festival. However part of me thinks it’s the least they can do as I am housing the company for the month (that may have something to do with the job but hey ill take what comes my way)

Safe to say I’m stoked to be working with the company and bring on whatever may entail in the months ahead.

Matt Williams
Production Assistant

Belt Up Theatre

Monday, 30 May 2011

'The Boy James' and 'Atrium' - June at York Theatre Royal and Chelmsford Theatre Workshop

'Just been knocked out by 'The Boy James' Belt Up's interative show about J.M. Barrie... Still drying my eyes'

Find out more at

Tickets available from

Sunday, 8 May 2011

Lorca is Dead and Macbeth lives on

MACBETH at the House of Detention

Tickets will be available from

Lorca is Dead at the International Dublin Gay Theatre Festival has been cancelled. Apologies to the thirty people who had booked to see the show.

But fear not, Macbeth will be playing for a extra week in the House of Detention. Following some rave reviews and a number of sold out performances we're adding 7 additional performances this week. So those of you who couldn't get hold of tickets, now is your chance.

Stephen Fry

Thursday, 28 April 2011

The Guardian on Macbeth

'Belt Up once again prove adept at working in tandem with the spectres that linger in apparently empty spaces.'

Lyn Gardner for The Guardian

Click here for the full review.

Stephen Fry on Macbeth

'Just had fab time at the House of Detention (an old prison in Clerkenwell) watching Belt Up's brilliant production of Macbeth.' Stephen Fry

Tuesday, 26 April 2011

The Observer on Belt Up Theatre's Macbeth

'a company at the beginning of its career, finding its way and worth following'
Susannah Clapp for The Observer.

Read the full review here.

Wednesday, 20 April 2011

The First Production Shots of Macbeth

Dominic Allen as Macbeth. James Wilkes as Lady Macbeth.
Photographs courtesy of Jethro Compton Ltd.

Tuesday, 19 April 2011

First Reviews for Macbeth

Photograph by Elliot Franks.

Tweets from Lyn Gardner:

'Some say Belt-Up too prolific; but they're just learning on the job, 21st C theatre's equivalent of old rep system. Macbeth rough but ready'

'Grazing during shows now endemic.Girl munched muffin through bloody bit of Macbeth promenade as if normal thing to do when witnessing murder'

Review from Howard Loxton for British Theatre Guide

'Director Alexander Wright has utilised the site with skill'

'Dominic Allen is a young Macbeth... balancing the poetry against the need for naturalism in such close quarters'

'Wilkes’s Lady M is one of the best I‘ve seen'

Review from Sam Marlowe for The Times:

'The best site-specific theatre interacts with its chosen space; the worst merely plonks an indifferent staging in an intriguing spot and assumes that’s enough. This effort, unfortunately, tends towards the latter.'

'Restless spirits may stalk these cells; but visitors to this production will depart
disappointingly untroubled.

DRUNKEN NIGHTMARE: Advice from Councillor Allan

Councillor Allan has posted on the Clerkenwell Liberal Democrat's blog talking of the license that has been granted to the House of Detention.

Cllr Allan's advice for local residents follows:

If anyone in the area experienced any serious problems during the Macbeth run, please try to notify them immediately to the management of the event, at the premises. If they concern music noise, contact the Noise Patrol via Contact Islington (020 7527 2000) and if they concern public order or otherwise merit immediate police intervention, dial 999.

We will be inviting the Councillor to a performance of Macbeth to witness for himself the nature of the event. Perhaps then he will put this nonsense to rest.

Monday, 18 April 2011


Residents fear NOSE-PAINTING, SLEEP, and URINE as Islington Council allows House of Detention to sell alcohol

Picture: OUTRAGE & FEAR: Sans Walk residents Betty Landers, Eileen Dear and Trudy Penk with Cllr Andrews and Cllr Allan who fear the License to sell alcohol at the performances of Macbeth will result in a “drunken nightmare”.

Residents, acording to an article for the Islington Tribune by Peter Gruner, not only fear nose-painting and urine but also sleep... outstanding journalism Mr Gruner.

Local Councellor, Liberal Democrat George Allan said that granting the alcohol licence could ruin the quality of life for residents in the area. After the hearing held by Islington Licensing Committee on Monday 11th, Cllr Allan said he was disappointed the licence had been granted.

What a shame.

Full article available here.

Friday, 8 April 2011

Revloutionary 3D Scans of Our Venue - The House of Detention

This is groundbreaking technology that has never been used for this purpose.

Allows you to travel through spaces in an entirely new way.

Scan and Film made in association with SCAN LAB

This is what the makers say:

ScanLAB is an ongoing series of experimental projects investigating the use of 3D laser scanning in architecture. 3D scanning is an emerging architectural discourse and a potent tool for design and fabrication.

We explore 3D scanning at all scales, from intricately detailed object to vast cityscapes. The technologies employed range from desktop self‐assemblages to state of the art LiDAR based surveying tools. Our investigations lead us to produce images, animations and artefacts.

ScanLAB is run by Matthew Shaw and William Trossell.

For more information please contact

Saturday, 2 April 2011

New Discovery In Space

This is, I hope, the first instalment of what will be an exciting and uncertain journey in to and through our new production of Macbeth.

We are performing in London at the House Of Dentention in Clerkenwell; part of an old underground prison system dating from around the 1700’s. We had our first proper day of rehearsals today and to be perfectly honest it took me places I had never expected to go.

I am afraid of the dark; I always have been ever since I was a child. I used to be terrified that things were hiding under my bed or on the windowsill behind my curtains. Although I have grown up since then I occasionally get reminded that these old childhood fears still linger at the back of my mind and imagination. So the prospect of being faced with an allegedly haunted prison system admittedly left me a little weak at the knees. It was, though, important for us all to understand the space so that we could use it best for the show.

Now we have done a reasonable amount of site specific and site responsive work before. Sometimes we build our spaces and sometimes we use spaces that we have found. I feel quite used to and quite comfortable with this process. We are quite used to getting to know spaces, to feel an ownership over them and learning how to use them for our shows. But this space felt different. And it is different, everything about it is different.

Ordinarily we give a space its atmosphere; we impose a theatricality upon it. Either we build a space or we create a context for the space. But this time we are dealing with something very different. The House of Detention has been used as a prison, as a work house, as an air raid shelter, as a prisoner of war camp: It has so much history behind it, so much history hidden in and around it. It’s hard to describe how this feels as someone who is about to make a show in there but I think we all felt the same today.

We decided that we should spend some time in the space with no motive other than to get to know it. It’s a little labyrinthine and it’s little disconcerting and we needed to get over this, we needed to feel comfortable there. So we thought we’d take the bull by the horns and just spend time in their, simple. I think secretly we were all expecting to use this time to get over our childhood and spookish fears. We wanted to feel a sense of ownership and a sense of control. But for me I had a very different and unexpected experience.

After spending an hour in the space just standing and looking and moving slowly around, I felt anything but a sense of ownership. I felt humbled and privileged to be there, I felt like I needed to thank History and Time for allowing me in to their domain. It’s hard to express. That place has seen so much pain, so much confusion and terror that the walls seem to drip with it. As soon as you step out of the sunlight and through the doors you walk in to a forgotten world. When you actually stop and look, think about what the huge iron hinges in the walls were for, when you figure out the dimensions of the cells, when you think about the darkness and the noise that would have been down there, it’s almost overwhelming. I have never felt humbled by space before, never felt so grateful and so dutiful towards History and Time. I realise now that we have a responsibility to this space, to the echoes and the secrets and the lives that are sunken in to its walls. I think we all realise now that this is not something we can take so lightly.

None of us are really superstitious and none of us were expecting to come face to face with a ghost or ghoul. But the place does have a spirit and it feels like a spirit that is hundreds of years old and that is a combination of all the people who have passed through that network of cells. I asked the cast to go and run bits of lines, to tell them to the walls and the nooks and crannies, to get a feel for how the script might fit in. As I have no lines I was, for a while, wandering and listening. I found myself stood towards the back of the system and felt a slight chilly breeze on my side. By no means was this a ghostly chill, I’m not suggesting that. However, as I stood there on my own I found myself talking quietly to the walls. I found myself thanking History and Time for allowing us to be here; explaining who we were and what we’ll be doing; explaining how we are not here to exploit the space but rather we are privileged to be using it; saying thank you; explaining how we hold the upmost respect. And as I said this, ‘Thank you, we respect you’, the chill dropped from my side and I felt entirely comfortable, without any trace of those childhood fears and imaginings. And this feeling remained for the rest of the day.

I no longer desire a feeling of ownership over the space, but rather an understanding. An understanding of what that space is, what it means and what it holds and has held within its walls. I have no real idea how History works, how Time works or how Spirits work, but in that place they all have my respect and my thanks and I know that will feed and drive the show. For the space, 6 weeks out of over 300 years is nothing, but for me it has started to matter. It has already changed my perception of site specific and site responsive theatre. A site is not something to claim for your own, it is a living and breathing, dynamic and constantly shifting entity that we can have no real control over, nor should we try. We must work with it. It is older and wiser than us. And, in this case, far more real than our theatre can ever be. I look forward to getting to know it better.

Alexander Wright

Director for Macbeth

Friday, 25 March 2011

York Press Review of THE BEGGAR'S OPERA

'Such moments of blissful theatricality make Belt Up stand out from the new radical theatre crowd'
Click here to read the full review.

Thursday, 10 March 2011

The Beggar's Opera - some instructions

It’s now only two weeks until opening night of THE BEGGAR’S OPERA so here’s a little revelation for you in the form of some instructions.

Like all Belt Up shows, you as an audience member will be able to make your experience what you want it to be. This time around we’re giving you a few fun ways to get more involved.

Essentially we want you to bring all your friends, family, neighbours, pets (no animals allowed), lovers, enemies, idols and other types of people you’re affiliated with along to the show and make your voice heard.

The show is set in the 1980’s so by all means set yourself as an audience member in the 1980’s. Come in full costume if you’re really up for it. Or you can come dressed as a parody of a famous political or entertainment figure from the 80s (or any time period for that matter, if you’ve come dressed up at all then that will make us happy*). You may find yourself more involved in the show than you expected if you truly throw yourself into it all – just a little hint there.

Really feel free to add your voice to the mix. Sing along. Dance along. Clap, laugh, boo, hiss, wail in terror, shout, weep; essentially don’t sit back and relax, get involved, we really want you to!

You might also want to pick your seats as soon as possible. Where you’re sat may mean you get an extra special experience of the show...

So what better way to spend an evening (or an afternoon, we’ve got matinees on the Friday and Saturday) than to bring a load of people you love to the theatre dressed in cool clothes and have a really good time laughing, singing and dancing?

Spread the word. Bring as many people as you can. As the Prime Minister says, ‘We’re all in this together’ so let’s have a bloody good time together!

THE BEGGAR’S OPERA runs from the 24th to the 26th of March at the York Theatre Royal as part of the Takeover festival.

Performances at 7.30pm with 2.30pm Matinees on the Friday and Saturday

Book online at or call the box office on 01904 623 568

*There may be special repercussions for those in the most elaborate costumes