Jonny Neaves (pictured) is a musician, a VERY good musician.
And he likes his crumpets burnt.
I met with him this afternoon at The English Muse to talk about Timeout, Park Bench Theatre's show for Assemble Fest this year. Before I ask him any questions, he interrupts.
"Rather than 'Make, Do, Play', I think it should be 'Make, Play, Do' because it sounds like 'make Play-Doh' and Play-Doh is fun." This somewhat covers Jonny's mentality. He's been working with Park Bench for nearly five years now, ever since his first year at university. "People kept telling me to get involved with them as soon as I got here, and I'm still with them," he smiles.
"Timeout is a piece about taking pleasure in a simple task, even if it's a fleeting moment of fun," he gestures between sips of coffee.
Jonny is one of three performers in the piece, and as part of the process he has been looking at using everything but his voice to communicate with others. "We're quite capable of communicating with gesture, but not using your voice is quite a shock to the system! It's interesting to try and communicate the most by doing the least. It's about finding a conciseness."
"I've been hearing snippets about other Assemble Fest shows, so I'm really intrigued."
Next I talk to Sarah Louise Davies, the Artistic Director of Park Bench Theatre, who is sat beside us, tapping away at her keyboard responding to emails, flitting across the room spinning all of the plates she so effortlessly manages to control.
"People don't do enough of what they love anymore, there's a huge value in time, and there's a danger that we don't spend it on fulfilling our potential." She's passionate about her time, and she's worried about everyone else wasting theirs. "We spend so much time in front of screens, working constantly and only being concerned with money that we forget to do anything really worthwhile with each other."
"The actors, guiders, timekeepers, however you like to describe them, they respond so personally to the audience, giving that gift of time to each audience member," she enthuses, swinging her leg in excitement. "It's all about spontaneity, investing in a human connection and seeing what we can stir up in each audience member."
I ask how the piece reflects Newland Avenue, and she is not short of answers.
"Take The English Muse for example, when this place first opened there was already so much DIY stuff going on. Take that tea cosy," she points to the teapot I've just been using, "I know the person who made that!" The arts and crafts scene in Hull, and especially around Newland Avenue, is firmly established, and it can be showcased in all its glory on the walls around us.
"Then there's the alley in which we start our performance," which is residence to Zoo Cafe, just off Newland Avenue. "When we need to be somewhere, we don't get a chance to explore the different and exciting places around us." Sarah, as preparation for the show, took her time out to discover more of Newland Avenue, finding the places that we rarely see when we're running to work or popping to the shops.
"The coffee culture of Newland is also a big factor of the show, talking and listening to each other, telling stories that we all love to hear." Sarah's effervescent positivity is infectious, as she runs off to start a rehearsal with her storytellers.
If you haven't seen Park Bench Theatre's promo video, you simply must. It's even got a cheeky cameo of yours truly!
Make sure you go to see Timeout this Saturday, amongst the myriad of exciting Assemble Fest shows!
Author: Rachael Abbey of Skirts, Shirts and Vintage Dresses