One of the best things to happen since this whole shitshow started. In fact, the whole show from John Krasinski is marvellous.
Ten years ago I was living in Dublin, having just returned to college to study for an MA in Directing for Theatre, because my casting bracket was flooded with twenty something actresses and I was not getting a look in!
Ten years ago, 2009, I was in my second year at university, writing an essay on John Donne’s poetry and desperately trying to impress my professors because I’d seriously slacked off the previous few weeks while rehearsing the first play that I’d written. I learned that year that directing your own work is a bad idea as a new playwright – frankly it’s probably not the best idea at any stage. The following year, I learned that directing theatre was not my calling at all – I couldn’t make myself care about the pictures on the stage, and only listened to the voices. Many years later, I’d find a good fit for that instinct: directing the radio dramas for Hotel Europe, which I made with Isley Lynn, David Loumgair and Philipp Ehmann and five extremely talented writers. But back in 2009, I was learning the jobs I wasn’t best suited for, concentrating on what I could offer and give to the theatre world I was then immersed in – and writing and producing had the edge over acting or directing.
In the space of just a handful of shows, Out of the Forest Theatre have completely won my heart, their music-infused ensemble-based approach proving utterly compelling whether exploring Lizzie Borden’s legacy in Bury the Hatchet or ripping Arthur Miller (and many others) a new one in Call Me Fury. So I was delighted that their Artistic Director Sasha Wilson, cape-wearer extraordinaire, agreed to answer 10 questions for me.
10 years ago I was at Georgetown University in Washington DC, studying English lit and Russian language and doing as many plays through the drama department as possible.
Frankenstein to The White Rose to Taro to The Strange Case of Jekyll and Hyde. Trying to pick my favourite Arrows & Traps show is like picking your favourite child (always the middle one!) and naturally in choosing Anna Karenina with its waltzing romanticism, I went wrong 😉 In any case, I enjoyed getting to know their artistic director Ross McGregor a little better here.
“Your favourite?! Well, thank you very much. The one I didn’t write, haha. My favourite memory is the look on my movement director’s face (Will Pinchin) when I told him I needed him to choreograph a horse race at a derby, that was simultaneously a sex scene. And watching him slowly make a note that read: “horse race sex scene”, and underline it, and not ask me why. In my defence, it was in the script. And thanks to Will’s enormous talent, and the cast’s incredible efforts, the scene was an absolute highlight of the piece, and I was very proud of the team when they showed it to me.”
I was in Norwich, working for a different theatre company that specialised in regional touring. We did classics and more than our fair share of seat-filler fodder (Godber, Coward, Aykbourn, etc.). Looking back at that time is strange as we were touring nationally but didn’t really have much of a sense of planning or patience. We definitely tried to run before we could walk, which is why the theatre company ultimately failed to flourish. It seemed an easier time, but I guess everything does when you’re in your twenties. I remember the Norfolk winds though, eeesh that place is cold.
I think I’ve been reviewing David Mercatali’s shows as long as I’ve been blogging, so I loved the opportunity to find out a bit more about him here. Of those productions that I’ve loved, from the blistering Johnny Got His Gun to Little Light, it’s the striking Radiant Vermin, by Philip Ridley, that ranks as my favourite, I even went to see it in French.
“We took the show to Bristol, London, New York, Avignon and Paris. It’s still touring in France now! There are so many happy memories from that long journey.
My favourite would be during the first run at the Soho in 2015. I am very very anxious when I watch my shows. I’m even worse now than when I started. Being amongst the audience can be stressful and I always fasten on to the one person I can see who isn’t enjoying it. But on this occasion I was sat on the balcony at the side and could see many of the audiences faces. When the garden party scene (for anyone who didn’t see it, it was an epic physical comedy scene at the end of the play) I decided to watch the audience watch the play. The looks of joy and wonder I’ll never forget. For once in this career I was living in the moment and enjoying the affect my work had.”
Simon Godwin returns to the National Theatre to direct Shakespeare’s ROMEO & JULIET following his critically-acclaimed productions of Antony and Cleopatra and Twelfth Night in the Olivier Theatre. Set in modern Italy in a world where Catholic and secular values clash, Jessie Buckley (Wild Rose, Judy) and Josh O’Connor (The Crown, God’s Own Country) play the two young lovers who strive to transcend a world of violence and corruption. Fisayo Akinade (The Antipodes, Barber Shop Chronicles) is cast as Mercutio. The production will open in the Olivier Theatre in August 2020.
Set and costume design by Soutra Gilmour, lighting design by Lucy Carter, composition by Michael Bruce and sound design by Christopher Shutt. Continue reading “News: new productions and casting updates for the National Theatre”
I love a show that completely takes you by surprise and the aural adventure (plus snacks!) of Citizens of Nowhere? – a show commissioned and produced by Chinese Arts Now – did just that, lingering long in the mind. So I thought I’d invite writer Ming Ho to speak a little about that show, and much more besides:
“Getting to work with the lovely cast, Jennifer Lim, Siu Hun Li (who inspired the character of Jun in the play!), and Pik-Sen Lim, a rare East Asian face on TV when I was growing up.”
In the wilderness. Having started out as a script editor in TV drama and moved into scriptwriting, I’d had a solid few years working on long-running series (Eastenders, Casualty etc), but my mum had been developing symptoms of dementia for probably over a decade, and her needs became pressing; as an only child with no other immediate family, I found myself spending more and more time supporting her, shuttling back and forth from our family home to my flat in London, and eventually having to arrange residential care for her and sell the house. She’s been in care for 8 years now in two different homes and is at a very advanced stage. In 2013, I started a blog about our experiences, Dementia Just Ain’t Sexy, and have since become heavily involved in campaigning re dementia and carer issues, sitting on the Carers Advisory Panel of Dementia Carers Count and the Advisory Board of Raising Films.
I never consciously withdrew from TV writing, but fell out of circulation on the long-runners, and that year of 2009 also had major surgery that I’d been putting off for some time, due to mum’s condition. I kept up contact with the business through involvement with the Writers’ Guild, sitting on the TV Committee and Executive Council, and being Deputy Chair from 2012-14. It was a traumatic time, but arguably, with hindsight, it has given me pause for thought about the kind of work I really want to do. I’ve realised that autonomy and truthfulness of content are the drivers for me and have since been focusing on original work for stage, screen, and radio.
Tom Littler became AD and EP of the Jermyn Street Theatre in 2017 but his relationship with the theatre goes back way further. And when I asked him to about his memories of Anyone Can Whistle which I noted as my favourite of his productions, this was his response:
“I’m slightly perturbed that you think I peaked in 2010…! That was a memorable time. I remember the three leads, Issy van Randwyck, David Ricardo-Pearce and Rosalie Craig, very clearly. David had a song called ‘Everybody Says Don’t’ – a hymn to anarchy and breaking the rules, but most of all to trying: ‘Tilt at the windmill, and if you fail, you fail.’ That often feels pretty relevant in art and life.”
I was opening a play at the Arcola called Origin of the Species by Bryony Lavery, with Clare-Hope Ashitey and Marjorie Yates. It’s about a prehistoric woman who comes to life. We buried Clare-Hope in sand and the audience had no idea she was there until Marjorie excavated her.
Funnily enough 10 years I decided to take the decision and leave my job as the Communications Officer at York Theatre Royal and start up Duncan Clarke PR. Being based in Yorkshire, I knew that there was so many great theatre companies in the region and yet very few theatre publicists – so it just made sense to start up on my own. I must admit I was really nervous about making the move but what kept me going was the brilliant from people within the industry and the support from my amazing wife.