Heartbreak Productions planning biggest outdoor season

Published: 25 May 2019
Reporter: Steve Orme

A Midlands touring company is preparing for its busiest season, presenting no fewer than 255 outdoor shows over three months.

Heartbreak Productions from Leamington Spa, Warwickshire was formed by Maddy Kerr and Peter Mimmack in 1991. It will have four shows on the road in 2019, William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, Noël Coward’s Private Lives, a new adaptation of Emily Brontë’s Wuthering Heights and David Walliams’s Gangsta Granny.

There has been so much interest in Gangsta Granny that Heartbreak will have two separate teams performing in total 128 performances of the show.

Artistic director Mimmack said, “we’ve done maybe up to 200 dates in a season but not 250. It’s absolutely mad. Someone in the company’s got a screw loose, I think!”

Three of the shows will open at Jephson Gardens in Leamington. One cast is already on the road with Walliams’s family adventure and a second will go to holiday resorts later.

Mimmack said each summer brings different challenges. “Last year was fantastic, a really good summer. The weather can be the biggest challenge for the actors, especially if it’s raining for a few days. And it’s much harder to market a show when it’s wet.

“We always push ourselves. This year, Romeo and Juliet is a very challenging production because it’s a very ultra-modern show. We’re doing video projections and live streaming so the audience can participate in terms of being on their phones and checking Facebook comments.

“It’ll be great fun. It’s quite an adventure for us and we hope it’ll be an adventure for the audience. It’ll be a very different outdoor experience for them.”

Mimmack believes some of the challenges are down to councils “not being funded” and having to make budgetary cuts. But that hasn’t led to a reduction in the number of actors Heartbreak employs.

“We use a process that’s evolved over a number of years. We set up an event and then we tell the story of the title. There are about 20 characters in the original Romeo and Juliet. We can do it with five because it’s people telling a story.”

Mimmack promises a fresh look at some of the plays, in particular Wuthering Heights which features a group of ghostbusters.

“It’s coming at the story from a different angle, shining a different light on a traditional story. No one will have seen a Wuthering Heights like ours. If they’re coming for a bog-standard Wuthering Heights, they might be incredibly disappointed. But if they’re coming for something slightly different, slightly new, we do that. We engage with the audience in a different way.”

The tour dates of the four shows can be seen at the Heartbreak Productions web site.