Mr Harper’s Variety Show! (July 2018)

“It was evident how meaningful the experience was for all the participants. The shared experience of taking risks together, to make something from nothing, to have a collective vested interest in the outcome brings a room of strangers together and bonds them fast… I feel honoured to have been brought in to teach this wonderful group and be a part of something that will no doubt keep growing.”

– Edith Tankus, collaborating artist

In 2018, Emily Parrett and Grace Holme were commissioned once again by Ashford Borough Council to organise a second Humans of Ashford community theatre project. Inspired by Victorian Music Hall, ‘Mr Harper’s Variety Show!’ combined comedy, music and local stories in a performance for the council-organised Create Festival. The piece explored the notion of ‘talent’, as we expanded our definitions to included all of the unique and diverse gifts that every individual in Ashford has to offer the community.

Over two weeks the community ensemble devised the performance, guided and brought together by the two facilitators. We also collaborated with the incredible award-winning, local actor and clown Edith Tankus, who led a clown workshop in which the participants learnt specific comedy skills that then informed the piece.

As well as the performance on Sunday 22nd July 2018, the group also performed mid-way through the project at ‘Bunting on the Bandstand’ in the town centre. In this performative action, the community ensemble sang Music Hall classics and invited passers-by to nominate a local superhero on a piece of bunting. These names and contributions were then read out live in the performance at Create.

Special thanks to Ashford Borough Council and St Mary’s Church, Ashford for their support of the project.