AHRC Filming and Development Day

Picture shows a group photo of the Beat of Our Hearts team.
Left to right (back): Charlotte Jones, Richard Vytniorgu, Fred Cooper, Kieron Jecchinis, Naomi Turner, Scott Hurran, Zoe Fitzgibbon, Natalie McGrath. Left to right (front): Andy Hunt, Sophie Cottle, Frewyn Thursfield, Rebecca Todd, Elijah W. Harris

The new year brought with it the excitement of knowing that soon LGBT+ History Month would be upon us and the Northcott Theatre would be staging new histories of LGBTQIA+ loneliness. As I write, we have just over a week before Natalie McGrath’s The Beat of Our Hearts premieres.

Soon after rehearsals began, early in January, videographers Biggerhouse Film came down to the Barnfield Theatre in Exeter on behalf of the AHRC, where rehearsals were in full swing. The footage they captured will be used to make a short film about our project which will be launched in May, alongside films from the other EDI Engagement Fellows, who were funded by the same scheme.

Two people wearing blue standing next two each other, reading from scripts. On the left, Elijah wears a cap and his head is bowed. On the right, Rebecca wears a scarf and places a hand on Elijah's shoulder.

This was the first time Charlotte and I had met the actors and some of the creative team, and it was great to see a couple of the work-in-progress scenes from Natalie’s play performed. The acting team brings together a range of intergenerational talent and a keen sensitivity for the nuances of different queer identities. The four characters – Dove, Val, Luca, and Quill – became embodied before us as the performers sought to test out the characters’ personalities and relationships with each other.

One of the things that struck me most about the day was getting to see how the Barnfield Theatre room that the company was using had been transformed as their development deepened. Walls were decorated with evidence of their discussions. Key LGBTQIA+ events in history were outlined; there were mood boards for each character’s wardrobe and background; and there were photos printed from Pinterest which seemed to illustrate the team’s imagination and thinking around the environment brought forth in The Beat of Our Hearts.

Six people stand together around a table strewn with papers and pen. Some of them look at each other, some look down at the table.

As we’re learning, a lot¬†goes into producing a play, especially one that is being produced and developed at a relatively rapid pace. But with a stellar creative team steering us, we have every confidence that the final thing is going to be every bit as thought-provoking and dynamic as we expect.

Tickets are still on sale, so if you haven’t bought one already, you can still do so via the Northcott’s website. The play will be staged from 3rd-5th Feb, including a matinee performance on Saturday 5th Feb, and a free post-show discussion on Friday 4th Feb.