Our Gate is the brainchild of local writer Rachel Halliwell. Described as “immersive theatre”, the team involved should get massive credit for thinking outside the box and trying something completely different. Based in and around the centre of Harrogate, the two-hour performance not only involves the audience but takes them out of their seats and onto the streets of Harrogate for a story that involves multiple locations.
A fascinating concept, the story revolves around controversial water supply plans proposed for the Harrogate area. Arriving at the first location, a local church, you’re greeted by staff who explain the concept and what you can expect throughout the performance. From that point on, as you walk into a noisy Town Hall meeting, you effectively become part of the show.
As the story progresses, it quickly becomes apparent that not everybody is who you think they are. Is the person you’re sat next to a member of the cast or are they an invited guest? At times it’s hard to differentiate between the two and, as the story moves from the stage to multiple outside locations across the town, the line between what could be theatrics and what could be reality quickly becomes crossed as the play then throws you into the midst of the general public.
Having said that, involvement in the story is high throughout but, at no time, do you feel forced to participate. However, due to the subject matter, at times it does feel hard not to get involved as members of the cast interact with you. The use of text messages sent to audience members mobile phones throughout the play again drags you into the story and, before you know it, you’re involved whether you planned to be or not.
Rachel has to be commended on using a subject that is close to the hearts of many people in and around Harrogate and one that, had this been a real-life situation, would have caused much controversy across the town. The cast comes from all ages and backgrounds and play key parts in the story highlighting the struggles faced by the younger generation in getting their voice heard on matters that will affect their futures.
The story finishes back where it started and, as the story comes to a rousing finale, it’s hard not to feel that ‘Our Gate’ was a huge success for all involved.