Grin Productions: 3 Women previewed

Rachael Jones meets theatre company Grin Productions and finds they have much to smile about…

Fringe theatre group Grin Productions began life back in Spring 2011, as the brainchild of founders Simon James and Kiefer Williams. When we met with James recently (for coffee – we are writers, darlings) he explained that Williams, then a total stranger, had gotten in touch with him out of the blue and asked if he’d be interested in setting up a community theatre group. One emphatic yes later, Grin was born.

Well, the idea of it was.  It took the guys three weeks to finalise a moniker for their baby, finally settling on Grin because it was the ‘most ironic’. As all their productions so far have been dark, brooding and distinctly unsmiley we’d have to agree with them on that one.

First production Push was a last minute inclusion to 2011’s LightNight festival, something James says was an excellent springboard. Since then they’ve produced four more plays; Baked, Cotton Mouth, Mexico and On the Edge, with upcoming anniversary production Three Women their sixth in just a year. Not bad going for two guys running a theatre company in their spare time!

We wanted to know; what is it that drives Grin? Why work what is essentially a second full-time job for no pay? The answer Simon James gave us was pretty simple – they just love theatre. Kiefer has been working in theatre for years, writing plays, running workshops and acting. Having always wanted his own company, the discovery of ‘business end’ Simon helped him make that dream a cold, hard reality.

Once you’ve got a company, you need an M.O. Grin’s mission is to bring original, fresh theatre to the city and always aim to bring something new to the table. After all – as Simon James puts it, that’s what fringe theatre is about.

So now that they’re a year old, what’s on the horizon for Grin? The next six months will focus on workshops – acting, directing and writing, as well as the possibility of taking a production to Manchester in the near future. Picking up their own premises is also a possibility, although James stresses the importance of walking before they can run. There’s also the bare bones of a plan to revisit aborted event Play in a Day, cancelled back in January.

Then there’s Writers (Un)Blocked, a Wavertree-based workshop built to support new play writing, screen writing and prose. It runs every week and has been, says James, a revelation. One of their regulars arrived at his first workshop having never read a book – another is a published poet. And Grin don’t just get these folks writing and then send them on their way; one of the plays that came out of Writers (Un)Blocked will soon go into production.

As we were getting to the bottom of our coffee cup, we figured it was time to ask James how Liverpool has responded to Grin; what makes it a special city for creative pursuits? Turns out the guys are kind of overwhelmed by the tremendous reaction to what they’re doing, with incredibly positive feedback from all involved. They may be figuring it out as they go along, but it’s been a fantastic learning process so far. The next thing? Press! Reviews! New work! The whole shebang.

And as for Liverpool itself? The vibrant, ‘something for everyone’ nature of the theatre scene makes it an attractive place to work for companies like Grin. We’d have to agree with them on that – we’re pretty big fans of it too. And we think Grin are boss, so you should definitely go and see Three Women when it hits The Casa, Hope Street this Wednesday.

Rachael Jones

3 Women @ The Casa on Hope Street Wednesday 25th 8pm £7.50 / £6 (concessions)

Posted on 24/04/2012 by thedoublenegative