Kickstart Open Space

Summer 2017

An opportunity for artists and theatre companies to take advantage of the Dukes’ spaces, meet the creative team, ask advice, and network with other artists.

Summer Open Space runs during the following dates:

  • Monday 7th August – Friday 18th August

We’re making the following spaces available for some or all of this period:

  • The Round
  • Dressing Rooms
  • The Gallery
  • The Centre for Creative Learning performance space
  • The Centre for Creative Learning recording studio
  • Somewhere else – tell us if there’s another space you’d love to use

You can apply for just a day, the full two weeks, or anything in between.

Please tell us more about you, your work, what specific project you want to work on, what kind of space you’d prefer to work in, and what kind of support you’d be after from our team. We’ll consider all the applications and do our best to juggle everyone’s desires.

Applications from BAME artists are particularly welcomed.

Download an application form here

Please return your form by email to, by 23 June. We’ll get back to you by 30 June to let you know our decisions.


the round2

Kick Start - Cheryl Martin

Introduction to Directing





Fancy a free ticket to the Dukes Park show, Treasure Island? Fancy finding out how a Park show is made, and what the job of a director is like? This free course could be for you.

The Intro to Directing course offers practical training for people (over 18 years of age) who are interested in finding out whether or not a career as a director is for them.

Participants on our Introduction to Directing course will receive a comprehensive overview of the work of a professional theatre director with sessions on key aspects of the role and craft.

The course will be co-led by our new Artistic Director, Sarah Punshon and Alex Summers, Associate Director.

This opportunity is for those who have limited or no experience of theatre directing, but are interested in finding out more. It’s especially for people from backgrounds currently under-represented in UK theatre; as a result of barriers arising from social, gender, financial, ethnic, cultural, geographic or educational disadvantage or disability.

Saturdays from 12 August – 14 October (except Saturday 19 August & Saturday 26 August)

Participants will explore:

  • The actor-director relationship, working with professional directors and actors, including award-winning Park show director Joe Sumsion.
  • Working with playwrights, including a session with Fin Kennedy, Artistic Director of Tamasha Theatre.
  • Participatory theatre making with Alex Summers and staff of the Centre for Creative Learning, including a ringside seat for tech week of The Dukes’ Autumn production, Blackout by Sarah McDonald Hughes.
  • Creative collaboration, including sessions with professional designers and composers, and with visiting South African company The Market Theatre Johannesburg.
  • Producing, fundraising and the practicalities of getting work made, with our Associate Producer.

These sessions will be delivered across all three of The Dukes theatre spaces, in the round, proscenium and traverse and in Williamson Park.

Participants will receive complimentary tickets to Treasure Island, The Suitcase and Blackout.

To find out more, please email Daniel Matthew, Creative Learning Producer, on To apply, please download the application form here and send to before 5pm on 20th July.


Writers, creators and producers – Get your works seen at the 2017 three-day event,  Lancaster Words

Lancaster Words is a three-day celebration of the written and spoken word that is being run by the Department of English & Creative Writing at Lancaster University and featuring, amongst others, Paul Muldoon.
The event launches on 6th July 2017 and runs through July 8th.  As part of the three days, there will be a series of readings, interviews, talks, panel discussions, performances and workshops at different venues across the city and on campus.
We are in the process of programming events for Lancaster Words, and want to put out a call for expressions of interest. If you’re a writer, creator, producer, or represent a community arts organization and/or arts organization, etc… in or around Lancaster, and would like to be involved, we would like to hear from you.

If you are interested, please fill in the Expression of Interest: Pitch Details Form and email them to or

Event Launch:  6 – 8 July, 2017
Location: TBC



Polly Lister, I Was a Wife, January 2016

Polly Lister, on writing her first play as part of Kick Start:

“It was invaluable, the autobiographical nature of the piece could have proved an uncomfortable watch so it was vital to the process to put it in front of an audience to see if it worked, see if I was on the right track. it was nerve-wracking though and I was anxious. Exposing my work to public scrutiny so early on in the process as part of the Dukes’ Kick Start initiative was nerve-wracking, but the enthusiasm for the concept was really heartening. Criticism is good at any time but particularly in the early stages, its easier to throw things out before you get too wedded to them.

I feel so lucky that a theatre believed in me enough to take a chance on me. The week of development and the ‘scratch night’ which The Kick Start process facilitated then enabled the theatre to assess whether their belief in me was misguided or not. Luckily for me the response was positive. 

 I would love to think I could continue writing as well as acting in the future. My brain is always busy and I am an observer. Writing is a cathartic way of discharging the day’s observations and characters. It’s peaceful whilst being active and inventive”.

Kevin Dyer, Mr and Mrs Macbeth, commissioned by Farnham Maltings. Reading on Wednesday 14th October 7.30 pm

Kevin is writing a new play inspired by Macbeth about a man coming home from war, his wife waiting for him and what it’s like when they see each other again after all that time. This ferocious home-coming is the situation in Shakespeare’s great play and is also the stuff of hundreds of hours of interviews he has done with men coming home from the war and with the women waiting for their return.


Coinciding with The Dukes new production of “I Was a Wife” by first time writer Polly Lister, and aimed at professional or aspiring writers, The Dukes are hosting a two hour workshop which will open up the writing process for this very personal show, and be followed by a Q and A session with Jonathan Harvey, exploring some of the prizes and pitfalls of writing from an autobiographical perspective.


The following writers are currently under commission or working on plays planned for production in the next 18 months:

  • Polly Lister, “I Was a Wife”, January 2016
  • Kevin Dyer, “The Hobbit”, July 2016
  • Debbie Oates, “Dennis Ockerby on Ice”, autumn 2016.
  • Eddie Robson, “Beauty and the Beast”, November 2015

Polly Lister, I Was a Wife, January 2016

Polly worked as an actor in Lancaster in summer 2014 (giving a fantastic performance as the Witch in Hansel and Gretel) and during that time talked about her idea for a unique new show. The Dukes supported Polly in her writing, including a Kick Start development week in April 2015, testing out the first half of the play with around 50 audience members. The audience response was impressive: the play was very funny and had a strong emotional engagement – it clearly moved many people as it explored the break-up of a relationship and how a woman – Polly – began to put her life back together.

The autobiographical nature was a real strength, as was the way it lifted the lid on the theatre industry. The play is set in the dressing rooms of a number of and charts the rise and fall of Polly’s marriage through the prism of the roles she was playing at the time and the dressing rooms she found herself in.

Eddie Robson, Beauty and The Beast, December 2016

Eddie Robson: “One of the benefits of staging the Christmas show in the Round is that it really feels like you’re entering another world, and that really reflects the heroine’s experience in Beauty And The Beast, journeying through the woods to arrive in a strange place tinged with fantasy. Meanwhile the enclosed, intimate performance space is a great place to create the Beast’s home, magical and yet claustrophobic. We’ve already talked about using the whole room, making Beast initially a shadowy presence on the upper gallery before descending to the stage.

For many people the Christmas show will be their only trip to the theatre all year, and it’s great if we can surprise them with what you can achieve in theatre. I’m really keen to find ways to translate the living household of the Cocteau and Disney film versions of the story onto the stage, especially as it’s here that the humorous side of the story can really emerge. I’d also like us to create a Beast with a really grotesque quality – there’s a tendency to make him still handsome, just furry, and I’m not sure that’s enough these days.

The theme of Beauty and The Beast – how we judge by appearances – never becomes irrelevant. The world is more image-saturated than ever, and as a result we’re more preoccupied than ever with how we appear to others. I’m interested in addressing this within this adaptation. Perhaps with a Beast whose good looks made him rich and paid for the palace to which his curse has now confined him, a palace now filled with broken mirrors because he can’t bear to look at himself. Perhaps it shouldn’t be Beauty who has to learn to see beneath the surface, but the Beast?”

Kevin Dyer, The Hobbit, July 2016

Kevin Dyer is an award-winning writer who has written a number of very successful adaptations for Williamson Park in recent years, including “Jason and the Argonauts” and the exceptional “Merlin and the Legend of King Arthur”. The Dukes has wanted to produce “The Hobbit” for some time and we have secured the production rights following the completion of the recent three film cycle.

“The Hobbit” offers a chance to tell a classic adventure and quest story which is ideally suited to Williamson Park – an extraordinary journey through Middle Earth, re-imagined for Lancaster. Populated by wonderful, strange characters – wizards, goblins, wood elves, giant spiders and trolls, and of course the extraordinary character of Golem. Told with a light touch, song and charm.

Debbie Oates, Dennis Ockerby on Ice, Autumn 2016

Debbie Oates: “As the daughter of a scientist and from a family of nurses and doctors, I have always been fascinated by some of the ethical wrangles in medical science. “Dennis Ockerby on Ice” is my attempt to engage with huge universal themes – mortality, medicine, love, life and loss – but explored through how such themes look in the everyday-ness of ordinary people’s lives.

Cryogenics is the logical end of a long spectrum of medical science where death is the great failure, and the tension between improving quality of life on one hand, and extending life at all costs on the other, can mean medical interventions become the priority, even when, perhaps, time might be better spent making real connections between those leaving life and those being left behind.

“Dennis Ockerby on Ice” is simply a love story. An ordinary couple thrown into the cutting edge of medical science – which research showed me is a place at times bizarre, at times surreal. Dennis and Viv find themselves under pressure to work out how they feel about living and the fear of death, as they look for ways to communicate with each other while the clock ticks down. My ambition for it as a play is that it works as a small story told with truth, emotion and plenty of humour, while also engaging with some of science’s challenging ethical dilemmas.”