Currently stranded in Chile due to unforeseen circumstances, Hannah Farley-Hills is the mind behind HFH Productions - the company using an innovative new model to bring three shows on tour using the same cast and set. Two of them will land at MAC this week: ...If We've Never Been to the Moon and The Naughty Fox. We had to hear more from Hannah, 7,000 miles away though she is, and hear more about these productions.
First things first – how did you get involved in producing?
Since I’d been a little girl I had always, always wanted to be an actress – my parents enrolled me in acting classes to boost my confidence. When the time came, I naturally wanted to go to drama school and they changed their tune! They said 'go to drama school if you want, but please have something to fall back on!'
This advice can have the opposite effect, but it turned out to work out wonderfully for me. I went to Royal Holloway to study BA Drama and Theatre Studies and realised that I really wanted to be behind the making of theatre, not just starring in it.
I know you’re particularly passionate about projects that emphasise accessibility, artistic development and diversity – what about …If We Never Went to the Moon? stood out for you?
James Baldwin (who wrote the play) is utterly passionate about accessibility and making theatre-making as progressive as possible in that respect. This approach definitely appealed to me. The play touches on strong themes of mental health, addiction and also features epilepsy – and without necessarily making a statement on how these may be linked – there is definitely an aspect of the play that prompts you to reflect on disability in a mental or neurological sense. Additionally, the whole play is creatively captioned for the D/deaf community and is hopefully easily accessible in that sense too.
What would you say about the play to people who love going to the theatre?
It’s a beautiful little parcel of a play, a one-act production that’s immersive and thought-provoking but you also leave with the sense you've had a really good night out. What frequent theatre-goers may find interesting is that the model we’re touring with is particularly innovative. We’re taking three shows out on the road, using the same cast, the same set and the amount of money it takes to generate one touring production and hopefully taking in the profit of three! We thought this was a really interesting idea to try for productions that incorporate new writing, or amateur productions that want to tour.
What would you say about the play to people who never go to the theatre?
I’d stress the idea it’s so much fun, you can join in, sing-a-long. Take a risk on something that doesn’t have a big flashy name (yet!) and absorb yourself in just 80 minutes of beautiful writing. I think the themes of mental health and conspiracy theories are also discussions that are always going to be relevant and won’t be going away – take part in them!
So as part of your three-part tour model, you’re also producing The Naughty Fox, an immersive, multi-sensory play using puppetry, music and light projection for children. What are the differences between producing adult and children’s theatre?
Whilst the planning and technical side is very similar, it’s really the conversations you’re having with the venues that are very different. Some venues will only programme one children’s production a year and others really rely on children’s theatre as their main source of income. It’s interesting seeing how each venue markets and reaches out to their audiences – through nurseries, and different networks with parents.
You’re touring three productions – what’s the third?
The third is a very different production altogether, which we aren’t taking to every venue, but rather visiting appropriate centres and spaces whilst on tour. With the advice of medical professionals, we are creating a very different version of The Naughty Fox for small groups of children with complex sensory disabilities. This will hopefully be a really wonderful, deeply engaging experience for them and will be a step in creating a type of theatre that is wholly accessible to all.
Hannah would like to thank everyone involved - from the creative team, the cast and those who donated in order to keep the show on the road in her absence. Grab a ticket for ...If We've Never Been to the Moon here.