Mikron Theatre Company
The Mikron Theatre is named after the Greek for small, and also its founders, Mike Lucas, Ron Legge and Sarah Cameron.
It is the longest running independent theatre group in the UK, still travelling (with the Tyseley!) up and down the inland waterways of the UK. It is a well-respected organisation that has given work to Mark Williams and Rebecca Hall, amongst others.
A group of actors travel the inland waterways in a boat, most days travelling by boat and giving a performance in the evening in a village hall or (more usually) pub.
Each year Mike Lucas put an advert in the Stage. From the hundreds of replies, 30 actors were shortlisted and interviewed for an hour, with further interviews to select the successful applicants for the coming season, ready to write and perform a new show each year.
In the 1970s Mike Lucas had some bad experiences travelling for forty weeks of the year with people who could act but weren’t asked to stay on for another season! Some were drunk most of the time, or stoned, or didn’t like socialising with their audience after a show.
He came up with a list of requirements:
They had to be able to act/sing
They had to be willing to learn how to steer the boat.
They had to be able to cope with the basic living conditions on the boat. The Tyseley (admittedly a large boat) was home to six people (and a bucket). One of Mike Lucas’s stock questions for applicants was “Do you have any awkward habits that make you difficult to live with?”
They had to be good with children as Mike and Sarah?s young son, Sam, lived on the boat.
They had to like pubs.
Happily Mark met all the criteria and opted to stay for the following season as well, being one of Mike Lucas’s successful choices.
First Season 79/80 Performers Mike Lucas, Sarah Wilson, Mark Strickson, Julie Brennan.
Second Season 80/81 Performers Mike Lucas, Mark Strickson, Sarah Wilson, Thea Bennett.
Mike Lucas is refreshingly acidic about some of his co-actors (and don’t get him started on John Noakes!) but he has nothing but praise for Mark, who joined in the 79/80 season. His National Theatre experience came in handy as he wrote most of the songs for Where’s Our Cut? . The show told the story of the Huddersfield narrow canal from the point of view of the Diggles, furry creatures living in the canal tunnels. (See photograph of Mark as Stanley Diggle) The following year he wrote much of the music for Mud In Your Eye!
In the winter of 1981 Mark Strickson and Mikron theatre members past and present made a record at the Abbey Road studios in London. This was Mikron’s third album which included songs from Where’s Our Cut? and Mud In Your Eye! and was described by Waterways World as “a fine recording of a memorable and frequently moving show, one of Mikron’s best”.
Mark got on well with Sam despite misadventures such as damaging the ligaments in his hand whilst showing him how to hit the bell at Stourport fair. Mike Lucas thought highly of him even though Mark poured boiling water onto his foot (whilst demonstrating how to pick up a kettle with a stick).
Mark has always spoken affectionately about his time with Mikron and has lived on a few boats since.
Information taken from Mike Lucas’s history of Mikron “I’d Go Back Tomorrow” and articles in Waterways World, also Myth Makers DVD from Reeltime films, available from Galaxy Four.