A look back on ‘Halfway Between – Stories of the Steel City’
Image credits: Matt Giles
‘Our sense of who we are and the stories we share is deeply intertwined with the city we live in. From the bustling high street to the peaceful peaks, this city has shaped us. In this piece, these passions and tales unfold before us in unexpected ways.’
Halfway Between was a one man show created by me and actor Joe Facer alongside some other talented Sheffield Creatives including writers Tom Jordan and Mitchell Vernals and musician Harry Gold. A show which, through creating different characters based on places and experiences of Sheffield, explored the impact of the city on identity and our perspectives of the communities we live in. After a few weeks of rehearsals we shared this piece, for one night only as a fundraiser, to a lovely audience of over 60 people and we were humbled to hear their responses and see how well they engaged with the atmosphere of the show and its themes.
Whilst in the madness of everything we didn’t get many good clips of the show I thought I’d compile here a bit of a portfolio of the photos we have, some extracts of text with insight into the characters, monologues and themes and some clips of the dreamy music score written by Harry Gold.
Overall, this piece focused on drawing the audience into intimate spaces to gain insight into characters lives and their outlook on the city. This allowed us to explore the impact of place on identity alongside the idea that these stories layer and fit together to give the city an identity in turn. We also played with the idea of placing memories on stage, allowing certain images to be built up or to trigger reminiscing and provoke characters to not just tell their experiences but step into and reconnect with or relive them. This allowed us to reflect on their continued importance alongside developing the atmosphere. Ultimately, this piece became about how and why people are telling these stories e.g. to keep memories alive, reflect on an everchanging society and the experiences that have made them.
Show Info & Credits
Halfway Between ‘Stories of the Steel City’
Money raised from this event will go towards funding Joe Facer’s Drama School Fees, more information on his GoFundMe Page: https://www.gofundme.com/drama-school-aid
Concept by: Natalie Hillman & Joe Facer
Written by: Tom Jordan, Mitchell Vernals, Natalie Hillman & Joe Facer
Directed by: Natalie Hillman
Performed by: Joe Facer
Music by: Harry Gold
The Script – Monologues/Characters
Sally/Parkhill by Natalie Hillman
The play opens on Sally a woman in her 30s finding her diary from when she was 11 that she wrote whilst living at Parkhill. This aimed to draw the audience into a warm, intimate storytelling space through hearing about community before an unsettling reflection on the reality behind these memories. Sally thus tells both her own story and the story of ‘G’ her friend who is unable to share hers after eviction. This piece therefore became about reliving and reconnecting with memories, childhood innocence, and indeed loss of it, and how people and events from the past continue to impact on our identity. I am now thinking about, as are our other writers, developing this character/concept further. But for now, here’s a few extracts from the piece:
‘If you’re standing on the newsagents on the pavement and you look across at the flats you’ll see my window. It’s 5 floors up and right in the middle. And If you look down from my window you can see the trees along the sides of paths and kids playing on the red swing set in the park. We moved in a few months ago and I now see what people mean when they say people look like ants when you look at them from above..’
‘G’s my best friend I’m actually waiting for her to come knock on my door now. She’ll knock 5 times but in a special way so i’ll know its her. We used to call ourselves the Gilbert Gang because we both live on Gilbert Row but we’ve grown out of that now we’re 11. ‘
‘The other night we were sat at what we call our penthouse because it overlooks everything.’
‘I’m sat looking over Sheffield again, at our ‘penthouse’. It felt weird though not having you to talk to. Mum told me to keep writing the diary but it’s funny the time I probably most need to write, to talk to someone I can’t because, well it’s not the same as a best friend is it? It’s not real anymore. I guess the Gilbert Gang really is over. Enjoy your 12th birthday wherever you are, I miss you. Sally’
‘See you on Monday’ – Tom Jordan
“I’ve been a bit of a wanderer for much of my life, but wherever I’ve ended up I’ve always been fascinated by the connections that tie people to a particular place – and in the case of See You Next Monday, the idea of a home town that makes us, shapes us and then breaks us, but ultimately remains the place where the ties and bonds to others with shared experiences are the strongest. And in amongst this home town, looking at the space we all have, or all should have, that is ‘our place’ – our refuge, where our friendships are forged, where we can be ourselves, that always calls us back. Whether it’s the snooker hall, the local pub, the theatre, the sports club – they’re all an integral part of who we are.”
‘It’s the one everyone wants to win, the most coveted title in the whole of snooker. Well, amateur snooker.’
‘The eight of us had been playing together on a Monday ever since Hadfields closed down in 81.’
‘But it weren’t just about losing your income – although that was pretty devastating, of course. It were about losing who you were. About losing your pals. The people who you mucked about with five days a week, who you went for a pint with after work – suddenly all that were gone. You lost your place in the world.’
‘We never used to talk about the important stuff. You can now. Some change is good.’
‘Miles’ – Mitchell Vernals
‘My subject, the Peak District, was a perfect opportunity for open-ended exploration. Although vast in what it offered, I always felt compelled to link it to something more intimate. ‘Miles’ is the journey of a young man returning home, reflecting upon his family, his city and his choices.’
‘It’s one hundred and sixty miles from London to Sheffield. Twenty miles from Sheffield to the Peaks. Six miles from the top of this trail to the bottom.I resented my dad for every single step when I was younger. My grandad too. They’d laugh and talk the entire way up. Football results, stuff on telly. And there’d be me, dragging myself behind in about fifty different layers. ‘
‘Through all the jokes and tall stories, I genuinely thought he conquered these hills. Everything used to seem so insignificant compared to him. Like he didn’t follow the trail. The trail just shifted beneath his feet’
‘I hope- I hope you apologised too. At some point. She says she’s just glad to have me back home. I know what she means but-. I’ve not thought of this place as home for a long time.’
‘I knew exactly where to go, which routes to take. Nothing’s changed. But this time I didn’t feel like the little boy dragging himself behind. This time I felt like I was making my own way.’
‘Joe’ by Joe Facer
We thought it’d be fun to end the show with a piece about Joe, where he could share his funny stories of growing up and his perspectives of Sheffield. It felt important to do this to show the impact storytelling had on us and joy we find it in, to show the audience that this is as relevant to us and them as it is the characters in all the different circumstances we had placed on stage. There’s a simple warmth and beauty in sharing stories and how these memories are placed around the city and we felt these recollections of family and friends reflected that stories both big or small are important.
‘Late August. Tuesday. 10:30 am. Record breaking temperatures hit the Uk. Blur’s Country house blazed across every barbeque as it reached number 1. Sheffield. Jessops hospital. The heat was that intense, they say that even the walls of the wards were sweating. ‘
‘Primary school. I was notorious for lying to my teachers that I was “poorly” so I could be sent home. Legend has it, that I hold the world records for most hours spent in the medical room and the largest collection of bump notes.’
‘When I see Sheffield, I see myself at 4 years old with my mum and nannan in town, in Mothercare…I also see me and my brother John down at the crucible every April. Not for the theatre, but snooker.’
We also worked with a musician called Harry Gold on this show (who is also part of band called ‘Heavy Lids’). I originally found Harry’s piece of music called ‘Neon Graffiti’ on the Storying Sheffield website and felt it created a great atmosphere that would really work with the show and direction I wanted it to take. Harry was generous enough to create some further music for the show which allowed us to build this atmosphere throughout the show.
Neon Graffiti (Intro used for preset)
'Among The Crowd' A poem for Halfway Between
Thanks for reading! Please do check out the people involved in this project, they were fantastic to work with and ultimately made this show a joy to work on. If you have any further questions about the show feel free to contact me.