HAVEN’T we all loved a ‘Let’s put on a show!’ storyline, prevalent in a thousand tales, from Expresso Bongo to The Play That Goes Wrong.

Well, here’s a story that’s gone right.

It tells of two young struggling actors who met and fell in love while on tour, but decided that rather than wait in line to be employed by musical theatre producers they would put on their own show.

In fact, Joseph Houston and William Whelton didn’t just put on their own show, they set up their own theatre.

Then they began to stage the musicals they’d dreamed of appearing in.

And the pair became so successful, they’ve now decided to tour one of their previous productions, the cult musical Hair.

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Joseph Houston, who grew up in Linwood, Renfrewshire, rewinds on the story.

“We set up the Hope Mill Theatre in Manchester at the end of 2015 and it’s been a great success.

“We had found this old Grade Two listed cotton mill close to Manchester city centre, and it was lying empty, and we decided to turn our dream into a reality.”

The adventure was bold, to say the least. Houston and Whelton were in their early twenties. They knew nothing about business, or converting old buildings.

“We just knew we wanted to get out of London; work was hard to come by and as Will comes from Manchester, it seemed to right.

“And we felt there was a gap in the market for the sort of shows we wanted to stage.”

With a £10k start-up business loan, their own savings, and help from family they learned the hard way, about creating lighting platforms, fitting seats, and insulating an old, cold building.

Then they staged the shows, which turned out to be so successful they were soon transferring them to London - and setting up a UK tour.

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“What’s been really great,” says Houston is the audiences have been so loyal.

“It’s not easy to make money with a theatre that only holds 120 seats but they’ve been great.”

The partners, who were married in their own Anncoats theatre, built from the ground up.

“The idea was if we could get the theatre open with the bare minimum the profits from the bar and restaurant would fund the future development.

“And you know, luckily that’s what happened.”

He adds; “Every penny the business has made in three and a half years has gone back in. But we’ve been packing the place thanks to great support from our audiences, who love what we do.”

What the theatre producers haven’t done, surprisingly, is staged shows with tiny casts to keep costs down.

“On average, our casts size is 12, and our most recent production, Mame, has 17 in the cast. We just don’t want to skimp. But the gamble has paid off.”

Houston grew up with a love of performance. After attending Pace Theatre school in Paisley he joined the Dance School of Scotland and from there attended Mountview Academy of Theatre Arts, achieving a degree in Musical Theatre.

“I’ve been hooked since my first Nativity play,” he grins.

“I was putting on shows in the house, making costumes, roping my sister and cousins into playing characters. A t school people sometimes said nasty things, but I was so determined I pushed it aside.

“But I had great family backing too. My dad’s brother is a choreographer and my mum’s brother an actor.”

Surviving in London however was tough. The endless rounds of auditions, the rejections.

“Yes, although I wasn’t totally disillusioned. It was part of the whole experience. But we had both reached the point where living in London, the hand-to-mouth stuff, just wasn’t enjoyable.

“That’s when we decided to move to Manchester. And it reminds me so much of Glasgow, and in fact we took ideas from Oran Mor when we set up our own space.”

Why decide to stage Hair? It’s of another generation.

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“Well, it was our second production at Hope Mill and it was a great success. I’d seen the West End version in 2006 and Will also loved it. We chose it because we could reimagine it in a smaller theatre but just as importantly it’s out there, it’s crazy and it’s not Les Mis with people dying.

“It’s a great positive, anti-war, global warming story with some great songs such as Age of Aquarius.

“It’s about young people who want to take control of their destiny. And it’s the original rock musical. What’s not to love?”

Houston and Whelton are now producing a national tour. But doesn’t he yearn to be performing?

“Producing a tour is stressful enough,” he says, grinning.

Hair, the Musical, The King’s Theatre, Glasgow, August 7-10.