The ‘Petrification’ of touring a play.

Actor Neil Grainger will be performing in Petrification in The Studio at The Lowry this weekend. The play is a journey into the heart of one family’s search for truth. Here Neil talks us through what it’s like to take a brand new show on a tour of the UK.


So, let me introduce myself- I’m Neil Grainger, one of the actors in Petrification, a new 3 hander written by Zoe Cooper. I’ve been lucky enough to be involved in the workshopping of this piece so it’s a real joy to be able to finally take Petrification on tour.


After an intensive few weeks of rehearsals and discovery in London, we started off our tour at Live Theatre in Newcastle. For many of the creative team, this is the venue that we grew up admiring for its bravery in developing new writing and North East talent, so it was a real pleasure to be back. Our week consisted of packed out audiences and many familiar faces. I’m from Middlesbrough but Live Theatre still feels like a home venue for me.


After a couple of days off, we headed out to a studio venue at Kendal Brewery Arts Centre and our first proper pub space, the Old Victorian Craft beer Pub in Halifax. Both performances spaces were very different environments to play in and in some ways it felt like we had to discover the play all over again. As far as pubs go, the Old Victorian is one of the best pubs I’ve ever been to and the wide selection of pale ale and craft beer is right up my street. Needless to say, we left that venue late! As a northerner, I’ve previously experienced how great Halifax is but it was my first ever trip to Kendal and we could not have picked a better day to be there. Beautiful sunshine really highlighted how stunning a place it is. It was also a perfect venue to sit outside and have a post-show drink as the sun came down.


We’ve now reached the third week of our tour of Petrification and with three lush studio spaces ahead of us in South Shields, Doncaster and Salford- we spent our Tuesday before we got back on the road blowing away the cobwebs. We’d all had a week off since Kendal and Halifax and that meant we needed to remind ourselves of what this piece is about and how we do it justice every night.


Our Director in chief, Mark Maughan, often compares theatre to a “slippery pig” and Petrification is no exception. But, whilst it can be a challenge to get hold of and pin down when you step away from it for a while, we’ve come to find that experimenting and playing with the piece makes it far easier to get to grips with.


At the heart of the piece is a relationship between two brothers, Sean and Simon, played by myself and James Baxter. James and I have been the best of friends since we first worked together at Newcastle’s Live Theatre back in late 2009. We’ve lived together, I’ve spoken at his wedding and we’ve woken up top-to-tail and hungover many a morning. In many ways, we feel like real brothers and we use that feeling for every performance to make the piece as real and heartfelt as Zoe Cooper’s excellent words deserve.


Neither of us had worked with Jamie (Quinn) before and to say we lucked out having him cast as Sean’s boyfriend, Aidan, would be an understatement. The play is 75 minutes of intensity with no interval and for the cast it can sometimes feel like we are going into battle together; Jamie is one of those blokes you want in your metaphorical trench during that battle. In a matter of a few weeks, we have become good friends and these friendships have made our ability to experiment and play so much easier.


Each show feels very different from the last as we negotiate the each new audience and playing space. But these are the things that keep it fresh and exciting to be involved with and with cobwebs cleared and the pig out of its pen- we get ready to grab that slippery bugger once again.


Written by Neil Grainger.


For more info on Petrification visit the website or call box office on 0843 208 6000.