Maureen O’Neill is a long-standing supporter and student of WriteForTheStage and has a genuine vision for theatre in Stockport.
When Maureen moved back to England after living and teaching in Germany for many years, she decided that the time was right to pursue some of her own passions. She had trained as an actor alongside some (now) very well-known performers and academics, and decided that it was about time that she grabbed the bull by the horns and started writing and producing theatre for herself.
And it just so happened that she attended a Development Week reading a couple of years ago and felt inspired to put herself out there, like the writers at Development Week were doing.
She signed up for WriteForTheStage Intro and started on the journey to develop her first piece of theatrical writing.
But she wasn’t just interested in writing.
She also had a vision to bring fringe theatre to the people of Stockport, because Stockport has very little by way of a fringe scene. She recognised that there’s a gap in the market, and she wanted to test out her vision.
Viaduct Theatre - Playing God
So, looking for a script to develop and produce, she came across one of my unproduced plays, Playing God, and wanted to produce it. And in the able hands of Leni Murphy and a stellar cast, she produced her first play: Playing God, by Mike Heath, at The Hatworks Museum, Stockport.
It was a real learning experience for her, but along the way she realised that she was right: there is a genuine hunger and enthusiasm for professional fringe theatre performances in Stockport.
The Hatworks Museum was a great starting point - but she wanted her own venue.
China Plates and Pearl Earrings
Maureen’s second production was China Plates and Pearl Earrings, by Jade Jones.
She discovered the piece at Three Minute Theatre where it was performed as a rehearsed reading. She thought it had massive potential, so - in true entrepreneurial fashion - she did a bit of networking, met the writer, and convinced her that Viaduct Theatre was the right company to take China Plates into production.
And she did it, and Viaduct Theatre won their first award for Best Drama when they brought the show to The Greater Manchester Fringe Festival, 2018.
So, all off to a pretty good start! Two productions and their first award under their belt; nothing could stop them now.
But Maureen still hankered after her own venue: the compromises you have to make when you set up in a non-theatre space can be complex and cumbersome, and she found temporary venues a real limitation to what she could achieve.
So, while she was out and about - meeting and schmoozing and looking for a new venue - she decided that she'd like to learn a bit more about producing fringe theatre, so she joined the WriteForTheStage Producing course. She wanted to learn about funding applications and marketing, as well as top up her existing knowledge.
In the Producing course, we cover the team, the tech, budgeting, marketing, funding, and casting. And, during the course, we put an application bid together for Arts Council England to try and get projects off the ground with a budget. We've had a pretty impressive turnaround on funding bids so far.
And - sure enough - over the past six months, that meeting and schmoozing paid off. And she is now very excited to launch Viaduct Theatre as a going concern.
After much negotiation, Maureen finally got the keys to her new venue; slap-bang in the middle of Stockport's commercial zone.
The ex-Pound Empire unit in Merseyway Shopping Centre was sitting empty. It's a large venue and Maureen had had her eye on it for some time. With excellent transport links (5-minute walk from the station, 2-minute walk from the bus station), she felt that it was the ideal spot.
And she got it!
Viaduct Theatre - it's alive
After receiving the keys, there was a fair amount of renovation and preparation to be done. But they're just about to open their doors.
And they've gone from this:
The Line Up
Viaduct Theatre officially opens its doors to the public very soon - and they've packed November with a great programme of work, including a Scratch Night, hosted by Fat Roland.
Their lineup includes:
For more details and to get involved in Viaduct Theatre, click here to be taken directly to their website. If you have a show that you'd like to bring to their venue, get in touch.