Words: Will Stroude
In partnership with Hope Mill Theatre.
With less than three weeks to go until Hope Mill Theatre's online revival of Hushabye Mountain begins streaming to audiences across the UK, producers have offered a first look at the eagerly-anticipated revival of Jonathan Harvey's acclaimed 1999 Aids drama.
Newly released footage and images from the rehearsal room give theatre fans their first glimpses of show stars including Layton Williams, Harrison Scott-Smith and Matthew Henry in character ahead of Hushabye Mountain's virtual premiere on Saturday 5 June (tickets are available here).
Released six years after Beautiful Thing - the seminal queer play that propelled Liverpool-born writer Jonathan Harvey to fame - Hushabye Mountain tells the story of a young gay man, Danny, as he waits to get into heaven after passing away from an Aids-related illness.
Hope Mill Theatre's online revival stars Misfits actor Nathan McMullen as Danny, former Everybody's Talking About Jamie star Layon Williams as his grieving partner Connor, and Harrison Scott-Smith as Connor's new love interest, Ben.
Layton Williams as Connor and Nathan McMullen as Danny (Photography: Phil Tragen)
In a video from the rehearsal room, Layton and Harrison tease what's in store for viewers when Hushabye Mountain premieres next month, 22 years after the original show first debuted at the Lyceum Theatre in Crewe.
"People should tune in to watch Hushabye Mountain because we are making some ART, baby!" says Williams, whose breakout role came in Jack Whitehall's comedy series Bad Education.
"I'm really proud of what we've done so far, so I can't imagine what it's going to look like in a couple of weeks."
Stage newcomer Scott-Smith adds of his character: "Ben is very chaotic, he's very lonely and he's trying to sort of worm his way into this little group of friends who've gone through so much grief over losing someone close to them."
Directed by Nick Bagnall, who played Ben in the original stage production more than two decades ago, Hushabye Mountain also stars, Matt Henry (Kinky Boots), Jodie Prenger (BBC's I'd Do Anything) and Amy Dunn (The Turn of the Screw).
"It's full of wonder and joy, this play, but it's also laced with one of the most devastating periods of our time", says Bagnall, who promises the show will be a "really magical theatrical event" amid a difficult period for theatre companies.
Harrison Scott-Smith as Ben (Photography: Phil Tragen)
"The reality is incredibly dark, but Jonathan is such an exquisite writer that he's able to find joy and wit and so much humour."
Harvey, who remains closely involved with the new production, adds: "It's a play that's very close to my heart. It's a play about a bloke whose partner has died of Aids, and he meets a new boyfriend who's HIV-positive who then starts to survive.
Writer Jonathan Harvey with Layton Williams and Harrison Scott-Smith (Photography: Phil Tragen)
"It's sort of the contrast between the two relationships."
Hushabye Mountain airs live on Saturday 5 June and will be available to stream from 11-20 June.
Call the Hope Mill Theatre box office on 0161 275 9141 (Monday – Friday, 12pm-5pm).