Truelove Tours has been supported using public funding by the National Lottery through Arts Council England

Banner Photograph Copyright © Deborah Cosgrove 2014

Truelove Tours

In 2000, whilst freelancing as Arts Correspondent for the Essex County Standard newspaper, Colchester based writer/performer Darren Gooding began devising the comedy character of  actor, critic and raconteur Manly S. Truelove. “Manly” finally burst onto the East Anglian Arts Scene in July 2001 in a full length one man stage show entitled Manly Truelove’s Theatrical Anecdotes. Initially produced with the Colchester-based Predictable Pig Theatre Company, the show premiered at Colchester Arts Centre after which it enjoyed a successful regional tour, prior to being taken to the 2002 Edinburgh Fringe Festival where it undertook a month’s run at the Gilded Balloon.

        Manly’s success in Edinburgh led to further regional theatre bookings and two years of Darren writing a regular, (and increasingly subversive) back page for “East Life” magazine in the literary persona of the devious old soak. Meanwhile Darren continued to participate in the creation of new characters and narratives under the Predictable Pig umbrella; three full length comedy plays followed: this time co-written and performed with regular collaborator Damien Bell - “Mexibralia T.O. Bangralore”, “The Cardboard and String Oresteia” and “O.F.U.”; in which the writer/performers examined themes of displacement, paranoia and conspiracy with their trademark mix of surreal gags, verbal slapstick and ridiculous props.

In 2004 the Predictable Pig Theatre Company disbanded and the core writer/performers went separate ways. Darren went solo; re-launching Manly’s stage career under the umbrella of Truelove Tours with the production of a second original stage play entitled Remembering Dame Hermione which toured East Anglia in 2004 and into 2005, by which time Manly Truelove was rapidly becoming a slyly subversive part of the regional arts scene.

             After four years rest the character of ‘Manly’ returned in a feature length film comedy, adapted from his successful Edinburgh stage show. Produced and directed by Darren Gooding “As I Remember Thrigby”  was shot in HDV over the course of 2008/2009, in a variety of East Anglian locations. The film received its initial Preview Screening  on Saturday March 28th 2009 at Colchester Arts Centre; more screenings followed including a London Premiere at BAFTA on 28th of April 2010. For further information about this endeavour check out our Electric Pictures page.

             April 2010 also saw ‘Manly’s’ début as a compere at the Whitby Gothic Weekend, the success of this venture subsequently led to additional offers of  compere work both in East Anglia and further afield.

             2011 brought additional hosting gigs for Darren, in a variety of guises; but it also marked a creative departure with the launch of a brand new stage show entitled “The Cabinet of Leopold Thorn”: an extraordinary true story of ambition, loss, scandal and deception set within the obsessive, clandestine and occasionally downright ridiculous world of Victorian Stage Illusion... This was the first ‘straight’ play to be produced by Truelove Tours and the first not to feature the eponymous character of Manly S. Truelove. The premiere of  “Leopold Thorn” in October 2011 engendered enthusiastic and overwhelmingly positive responses and reinvigorated Darren’s love of live theatre. It also was the first live show to feature specially composed music by Darren’s wife; composer and performer Tina Gooding.

            2012 brought more compere work and further “magical” developments as Darren began to devise and perform  comedy conjuring projects with Magician, Tailor and general Renaissance Man Dean Allen Jones, including full length Stage Magic Show: “Inventions of the Impossible”  This project lead to the two men forming “Nothing Up Our Sleeves” - a loose collective of sumptuously attired Essex-based magicians, with diverse skills and eclectic performance styles. Meanwhile Darren also co-wrote and produced a four part Internet radio serial with old Predictable Pig collaborator Damien Bell, entitled “The Adventures of Bentley Strangetrousers”...This led to a Bentley Christmas Special and a second serial in 2013.

Produced under the banner of I Hear Voices Theatre Company these audio adventures have become a regular part of the Arts Centre’s Christmas line up.

In 2013 Darren was commissioned to write and perform the opening show for Colchester’s first Comedy Festival; the result, “Civic Ceremonial - An Audience with A Mayor of Colchester” was a surreal and subversive excursion into local government which took place in the Mayor’s Parlour in Colchester Town Hall over the course of a single day. Meanwhile, more close-up magic gigs continued to materialize for Nothing Up Our Sleeves, including two large scale events at Colchester Castle plus the offer of Darren and Dean becoming the regular Storyteller and Magician for  Tea & Sympathy’s literary-themed bar nights. Darren also restaged and toured “The Cabinet of Leopold Thorn” which received enthusiastic Reviews. The wealth of new gigs resulted in Darren being asked to perform excerpts from “Cabinet” at the Colchester Free Festival in the spoken word tent, which he was subsequently asked to co-direct.

Later that year Darren delved further into the world of the eccentric Victorian Magician to begin a brand new cycle of shows entitled  “The Storybook of Leopold Thorn” The first instalment of this quartet of interwoven tales - “The Illusionist, The Princess and the Candlesticks” was tried out at Colchester Arts Centre on the 20th of November 2013.

In 2014 Truelove Tours was awarded a grant from Arts Council England to assist in touring “The Princess and the Candlesticks” and producing the second show in the Storybook cycle “The Terror Beneath the Boards”. On the Comedy front the company received their second commission from Colchester Comedy Festival and A Mayor of Colchester returned in a brand new short film - “Civic Ceremonial II - The Telling of the Town Joke

In 2015 the Leopold Thorn Storybook Cycle continued with “Terror Beneath the Boards” going on tour and a new play “The Clockwork Girl” premiering at Colchester Arts Centre. Meanwhile “Civic Ceremonial III - The Importance of Being Absent” was commissioned to open the Third Colchester Comedy Festival.  

About Us Manly’s Original Publicity Still - 2001 Wigged & Touring as  Mr. Truelove - 2002 Frocked & Dangerous in “Remembering Dame Hermione” - 2004 FULL MISSION STATEMENT COMPANY HISTORY

   Truelove Tours is an independent small-scale production company based in the historic North Essex town of Colchester.

   The Company was founded in 2004 by  writer/performer Darren Gooding from a desire to create outlets for quirky, idiosyncratic, text-based projects where storytelling meets performance art, with a touch of cabaret thrown in for good measure.

   The company employs Storytelling, Comedy, Music and Magic to create intelligent, yet accessible work: utilizing a wide range of performance and narrative techniques with the aim of creating multi-layered shows which can be enjoyed by a broad cross-section of the community.

   Truelove Tours aims to reinvigorate the tradition of storytelling through the production of easy-to-tour plays with a reduced reliance on mediating technology; placing the narrator-audience relationship firmly at the centre of the performance.

    We strive to nurture a comedy / theatre crossover appeal, through an informal, audience-focused technique, in order to facilitate access to live performance for people who may not normally attend “conventional” theatre.

   Dedicated to new writing and devising for small-scale touring productions and site specific commissions, the company aims to provide both drama and comedy devotees with entertaining, innovative and magical theatre through the creation of works of sophisticated silliness for the delight of novice and regular theatre goers alike.

   Whilst theatrical production remains at the heart of Truelove Tours professional activities. It has also expanding into digital film making and other recorded media through  Truelove Tours Electric Pictures.

A Mayor of Colchester  2013 - Present The First Adventure of Leopold: “Cabinet of Leopold Thorn”  - 2011 An early appearance of Alice d’Lumiere in “Inventions of the Impossible”  - 2012