It’s cold outside. Really cold. And Alan Lane is wearing a kilt.
Alan Lane is in a series of former railway arches in Holbeck, south of Leeds City Centre. He always wears a kilt at the Slung Low Christmas Fayre. It’s a tradition. The railway arches are now HUB, the Holbeck Underground Ballroom, a place that has become something of an epicentre of good theatre coming out of the city over the last few years. The HUB is a base for Lane’s theatre company Slung Low, but it is so much more than that. It is a place where young theatre companies around the city can get support and rehearsal space. Today inside the HUB is warm because it is full of the arts community of West Yorkshire – over the past few years the Slung Low Christmas Fayre has become a fixture in the arts calendar. The company launched themselves into public consciousness with a performance of a vampire story that took place in a Bradford car park – that show went on to be performed in a shopping centre in Singapore. Since then they have staged shows at the Royal Armouries and from the inside of a caravan that set up shop on the steps of the National Theatre. Now, they are back home. Last year the company was commissioned by The Barbican in London to create one of their uniquely Slung Low shows. Lane came up with a typically adventurous idea. “We take a group of kids and there’s an evil professor who has released a smoke into the air that takes all the Christmas out of Christmassy things,” he says. “The kids have to track him down to his laboratory and stop him – and they have got 59 minutes to do it. Along the way they meet an elf, a fairy stuck up a tree and a snowman who isn’t singing Christmas songs, but summery songs. It is a big, Christmas adventure for kids who are six and over and it is an enormous amount of fun for everyone involved – including us. With a younger audience they immediately go with the story. They immediately invest in the fact that someone is trying to steal Christmas spirit and they go ‘yes let’s go’ and it’s very exciting when they do that.” Bringing the show to Doncaster’s newest theatre, CAST, which opened this summer, is a homecoming for Slung Low in more ways than one. “When CAST first opened earlier this year we were asked to perform a piece at the opening of the venue, so it’s great to come back here and work on this piece with them. We really love the venue and the people who run it and we’re just really pleased to get the chance to do this show here back home in Yorkshire. You get to save Christmas four times a day in the run-up to the actual day. By the time Christmas actually comes round, I have gone slightly insane with it.”
59 Minutes To Save Christmas, CAST, Doncaster, Dec 14-23. Tickets via 01302 303 959 and from www.castindoncaster.com