STUFF comes to Bradford

[All images courtesy of]

My Beating Heart Theatre (MBH Theatre) is making its Yorkshire Debut with “STUFF”.

The multi award winning show has a small but superb cast, including Peter Ash (Darius Fry in ITV’s “Footballer’s Wives”), Eve Burley (Anthony Burgess’ “One Hand Clapping”) and Karl Greenwood, who will soon be joining the UK touring cast of “Blood Brothers”. Directed by the wonderful Alice Bartlett, this really won’t be a play to miss.

TSOTA sits down with writer of “STUFF” and founder of MBT Theatre company, Mick Cooper…


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TSOTA: You’re the writer of STUFF, please can you tell us a little bit more about the play and what inspired you to write it?
MC:STUFF” is the story of a couple (Jess & Toby) who can’t have children after they find out that Toby is infertile. Jess’ old school friend, Xav, comes over to meet the couple one evening and explains that he has frozen his “Stuff” and has decided to give it them a present so they can become parents.

And Xav has just 2 months to live…

I was working on a play where a couple were having their first child – which, as someone in their early thirties, everyone seems to be doing. But I got thinking – “what if the child isn’t theirs? And what if they’re ok with it? Why are they ok with it?” And so the idea of a hyper-active, wealthy, soon-to-be-perishing, friend came into my head.


TSOTA: Is this the first play you’ve written? Do you have a certain writing process?
MC: “STUFF” is the third play I’ve both written and produced for My Beating Heart (“Troll (Keyboard Warrior)” and “Braving Faces” both premiered in Manchester in Sept 2013 and Jan 2014) as well as a smattering of other short pieces throughout the last 2 years. I had 2 plays in the shortlist for the Irlam Fringe Festival this year and my new short play “Don’t Forget” is currently one of 25 plays on the shortlist for The British Theatre Challenge (the winning plays are announced at the end of this month).

Considering it’s been just under 2 years since our first show I’ve been keeping pretty busy! As such, I can’t really think what my writing process is. I’m constantly writing, be it on a PC or tapping away on a phone whilst sat on the bus!


TSOTA: The nationwide tour has already begun – will you be going along to every show? What’s the reaction been like so far?
MC: The performance at The Lowry, which opened the tour, was the biggest venue that we’ve ever had for one of our shows – we came close to selling out the 135 seat space which was great to do, especially on MBH’s “home turf”.

I’m absolutely going to be at each venue – the Bradford show is going to be particularly special. I grew up in West Yorkshire (I went to school in Tingley many years ago and my parents still live in Morley). I’d been planning on taking a show back to my “home turf” for a while and this seemed the perfect time to do it!


TSOTA: With the show being set in a front room, is the set fairly minimalist? Is this style important to the show?
MC: “STUFF” is a funny, accessible and entertaining play (hopefully), but at it’s the core it’s the story of three people trapped – Toby by trapped by his infertility, Xav by his mortality and Jess by her uncertainty over the future.

The original script actually saw the story play out over a 9 month period with many different scenes and characters. But through re-drafting, we decided the most interesting part was whether Toby & Jess should accept Xav’s “stuff” as opposed to whatever happens next.

This led to the idea of literally keeping the three of them in the one room for the whole show and letting things run out in real time. As such, the set is basic but we’ve still managed to get a Plastic Trident named “Sammy” in there…


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TSOTA: What kind of theatre personally inspires you?
MC: I saw a play a couple of years ago called “Baby Jesus Freak” which had a successful run at the Edinburgh Fringe. It was about a chap from a staunchly religious family whose Brother was having a child out of wedlock with main character’s ex-girlfriend and he was now being haunted by the “ghost” of his future child / his conscience.

As a concept it was a fairly outlandish situation, but the play itself still felt “real”. The dialogue was clever, honest and – at times – wonderfully close to the bone. It touched upon some really big topics (religion / right of life / freedom of choice / family) but did so without being “preachy” and was still fun to watch.

Hopefully there are people who will see “STUFF” and think the same thing.


TSOTA: You have a superb cast. What was the audition process like?
MC: Challenging but incredibly rewarding. At the 24:7 Festival in Manchester where “STUFF” originally debuted last summer (for which we won “Audience Favourite Play”), we were one of the only shows doing an open casting call, so we felt this obligation to see as many people as we could. It was over three (long!) evenings that we originally found Karl (Xav) and Eve (Jess) who are still with the show today.

When we announced “STUFF” was coming back this summer for a National Tour, we’d originally planned to bring all three original “stuffers”, but the first Toby (Danny Ryder) decided to go gallivanting around the world and our 24:7 Director (Gregg Scott) had moved to London. Our current director, Alice Bartlett, was actually a recommendation of Karl who had worked with her previously. We then did another round of auditions for “Toby 2” where we cast the brilliant Peter Ash.

Casting Pete (and Alice directing) has given the show a very different “feel” to the 24:7 show last summer, which was something I was excited to see. Plus, it meant we could have Darius Fry from Footballer’s Wives in the cast… (I’d originally told Pete that this was great because my wife was a big fan… but it’s mainly because I was…)


TSOTA: What other projects does the MBH Theatre Company have coming up?
MC: “STUFF” comes to the end of its run after we close in Camden (Aug 20th-23rd) partly because Karl then joins the national tour of “Blood Brothers” but mainly because it’s time for the next show to be worked on. STUFF has been running for just over a year now and it’s time to get something new on the stage.

What this is yet, I’ve absolutely no idea… well, I do, but it’s not finalised yet. I did a writing challenge back in February called “28 Plays Later” where writers had to complete and submit a new play every 24 hours in each day in Feb. These are all short (10 mins) and a lot of them are total rubbish, but it’s given me some interesting ideas and we’re hoping to get some of them on the stage towards the end of the year.




STUFF is coming to Studio@ Bradford Playhouse on Wednesday 12th August as a part of a tour including performances at The Lowry – Salford, The Lantern Theatre – Liverpool & The Etcetera Theatre – Camden. Find out more at

TSOTA can’t wait to see the show!

Sophie Joelle