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Katharine Markwick On … Writing about Halifax, History and Friendship

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The Historians explores the friendship between Halifax girls Chucker and Mucker. The play offers a new perspective on the Northern kitchen sink drama in a moving and honest exploration of female friendship. The show marks Hot Ice Theatre's Edinburgh Fringe debut after successful productions at the Brighton Fringe and North Devon Festival.

On the road between Lancashire and Wakefield a town grew up which, by the nineteenth century, had made its name as a great hub of enterprise. Hailed as the ‘town of a hundred trades,’ Halifax was home to the Crossley Carpet empire, Mackintosh’s chocolate factory and the Halifax Building Society. Approaching the 21st century, much of this industry was gone. When I grew up there, Halifax was famous for its pumping nightlife and the frequent relegation of the local football team to the Vauxhall conference. But I can remember being aware of its history and past and how splendid the buildings were and always having a sense of ‘this place is quite special.’ I moved away 10 years ago, returning only when I visit my parents.

Whilst training at the London International School of Performing Arts, I started to think about what Halifax meant to me – maybe because LISPA is an international school, I began to see my own culture from a different angle. For the first time, I decided to sit down and write. I wanted to write about Halifax; and also about women and the particularities of female friendship. So I decided to contrast Halifax’s extraordinary history with the story of two, seemingly very ordinary present day inhabitants. At first glance, Chucker and Mucker are pure stereotypes, filler characters who might appear to give colour before being quietly retired, having had no chance to reveal their potential for witty and poetic speech or demonstrate their humanity. Their inspiration lies in two kids who used to stand at my school bus stop. They looked hard as nails and terrified the living daylights out of me. I wondered what they actually like and what they were doing now.

The Historians explores the web of friendship, place and history. How, as we grow up, the macro-scale historical narrative of significant events combines with the micro-scale histories of families and individuals to provide the foundation of our identities. The world is, increasingly a small place. Planes, trains and automobiles render our horizons vast. Getting on in the world, succeeding, progressing, are often synonymous with the distance we place between ourselves and our roots. But what happens to our identity when we move on from place and the relationships forged there? Ultimately, is the place we are going more important than the place we’re from?

The Historians runs at Underbelly Cowgate from 4-28 August (not 17) at 12.05.


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