An Interview with Nick Howden-Steenstra
Up & coming company From the Gut have brought an emotional, fun-packed play to the Fringe…
Hello Nick, so where are you from & where are you at, geographically speaking?
Nick: Hi Mumble! I grew up in Warwickshire, in the countryside, then moved down to London when I went to LAMDA. I’ve lived in Bermondsey, SE16 since 2015 and it really feels like home. I love it, the River, the community, the pubs, the parks. It’s a wonderful place.
When did you first develop a passion for theatre?
Nick: Daisy Herringshaw was a family friend who was 90 when I was born. I used to sit for hours as she used to tell me stories of “treading the boards” in rep theatre. From there I was hooked.
What for you makes a good piece of theatre?
Nick: Something that makes you feel; if I’ve got shivers running down spine, laughing until I cry or left thinking about the play for days I’ve seen a good piece of theatre.
Can you tell us about From the Gut?
Nick: From the Gut was formed by three of us after we graduated LAMDA. We loved the community at Drama School and wanted to recreate that in a professional environment, that’s why we work with actors who we know well. From the Gut is a family.
You have brought a play to Edinburgh this August, can you tell us about it?
Nick: It feels amazing. Last year me and Sam Angell, the other writer, came up to the Fringe for over a week and had the best time seeing the most inspiring theatre. We decided then and there that we had to create a show and bring it up in 2018. We put what we love most about the Fringe into Istanbul: You’ll Never Walk Alone; the energy, the heart and the music. The play is about the legendary 2005 Champions League Final between Liverpool and AC Milan and how the game changed the City of Liverpool. It’s told through the eyes of three groups of fans, the night of the game.
How is it going so far?
Nick: It’s going really well, we’re having the best time up at the Fringe. This is our debut show as a company and we’re learning a lot. I think the Fringe is unique place for that. The show’s been well received by audiences, people have been coming up to us afterwards and saying some really wonderful things. Hopefully the last few days (our run finishes on the 18th) we can really pack out the theatre!
What materials did you use during the research period?
Nick: I’m a huge Liverpool fan so for me it was about finding the things that had inspired me over my years of support. Building the emotional connection I feel for the City and Club into the play for both the cast and audience to feel. I hope the cast are all lifelong Reds now!
How is director Max Harrison handling everything?
Nick: Max is a wonderful director. Me and Sam trained with him at LAMDA and subsequently he’s been going from strength to strength. Most recently working with Phillip Ridley on his play Moonfleece at The Pleasance. Istanbul is a multi-roled multifaceted play, with lots of different styles of performance. Max is the perfect director to link all of those together, while working with the actors to draw out nuanced performances for each of their different characters.
The attachment between football & community is particularly strong in Liverpool, any idea why?
Nick: Liverpool is a global footballing super power and the support of both Everton and Liverpool often borders on religious. In recent history it’d be remiss of me to not mention Hillsborough. The tragedy in 1989 bonded the people of Liverpool to the team. Kenny Dalglish (the Liverpool manager at the time) attended each of the funerals for the 96, the city really came together. Afterward the club and fans and families had to fight or two decades to overcome the tragedy and being justice back to the city. The 2005 Champions League Final was the first big win for the club since 1990.
What is the opinion of Rafa Benetiz among Liverpool fans in 2018?
Nick: Most of us love him. He gave us one of the greatest nights of our lives. He got us to dream again, and he got us. His family still lives in Liverpool, his daughters are Scouse. I can’t find enough positives to say about the man. He was always there for the Hillsborough Memorial, even when he was no longer our manager. Istanbul: You’ll Never Walk Alone is, in a way, a play about Benetiz.
You’ve got 20 seconds to sell the play to somebody in the street…?
Nick: We are one of Lyn Gardner’s Picks of the Fringe. It’s a raucous 50 minute play that’ll leave you pumped and inspired. Even if you hate football you’ll still love Istanbul. We also have a banging soundtrack.
August 3-14, 16-18 (19.45)