WOMEN PRODUCERS I WRITING FOR CHILDREN I PLAYING AT THE PALACE I FIRST STAGES: PRUE SKENE I NEW DIRECTIONS: CAREER DEVELOPMENT FOR DANCERS I THE THEATRE COLLECTION
THEATRICAL MANAGEMENT ASSOCIATION
THEATRICAL MANAGEMENT ASSOCIATION
As this edition of Prompt arrives on your desk the autumn season will be well underway. Colleagues report continued good sales with many shows ‘on target’. We argue the case that the performing arts are greatly valued by our communities, especially at a time of economic uncertainty, but it is gratifying to yet again have proof of this.
Such a continuing positive response from audiences is a welcome balance to the trepidation with which many of us await the decisions on future local authority and central government investment. Theatre managers across the country are faced with the daunting task of developing viable business plans with the threat of cuts in funding of anything between 5% and 40%. I am aware that colleagues in Wales, amongst others, are already aware of the size of the loss of investment from their arts council or local authorities.
WRITING FOR CHILDREN:
These are indeed tough times. The TMA, through our partnerships with the National Campaign for the Arts and colleagues in the Unions, continues to make the case that the relatively small amount of investment made by the state in our industry is hugely productive, generating significant economic, creative and social benefit.
This edition of Prompt contains tributes to two exceptional men who sadly passed away this summer. Jim Parker, a member of the TMA for many years, had a long career in promotions and marketing; Jack Phipps was the first Director of Touring at the then Arts Council of Great Britain. Both, in their own way, were great servants to our industry and they will be much missed. Rachel Tackley President
Shared Passion and Tenacity Julia Hallawell 12
at the crossroads (again) Paul Allen PLAYING AT THE PALACE:
100 years of theatre in Mansfield
FIRST STAGES: PRUE SKENE
Peter Morris NEW DIRECTIONS:
Career Development for Dancers Jeanette Siddall THE THEATRE COLLECTION – ONE OF THE BEST KEPT SECRETS
Carole Woddis JACK PHIPPS 1926 – 2010
Jodi Myers JAMES (JIM) PARKER 1936 – 2010
Emma Parker INTHEBUSINESS PROMPT is published by the Theatrical Management Association, 32 Rose Street, London WC2E 9ET Editor: Kathleen Hamilton. To subscribe to PROMPT contact TMA: Tel 020 7557 6700; Email: firstname.lastname@example.org; or visit the TMA website: www.tmauk.org PROMPT is designed and printed by JOHN GOOD, Progress Way, Binley, Coventry CV3 2NT. To advertise in PROMPT contact Dale Cozier at JOHN GOOD: Tel 01993 777700 The views expressed in PROMPT are not necessarily those of the TMA or its members. The inclusion of advertising material in PROMPT does not imply any form of endorsement by TMA.
FROM ACTING TO INTERACTING
Dead Earnest’s workshop programme with the staff at Sheffield Theatres Tom Hocking
The TMA is the major trade association representing theatre managers, producers and proprietors in the commercial and subsidised performing arts throughout the United Kingdom. The Association was founded by Sir Henry Irving in 1894 and now has almost 350 members, including producing theatres, arts centres and presenting venues, the major national companies, independent producers, opera and dance companies and businesses associated with the performing arts industry. CONTACTS AT TMA: Chief Executive: Richard Pulford; PA to the Chief Executive: Pat Penson; Principal Officer: Kathleen Hamilton; Business Development Manager: Seamus McGibbon; Member Services Administrator: Gemma Nelson; Legal Officer: Louise Norman; Employment Relations Officer: Lucinda Harvey; Assistant to the Legal and Employment Relations Officers: Louisa Bell; Head of Finance and Administration: Martin Scott. Front cover image: Jonathan Goddard in Awakenings: Rambert Dance Company: choreography by Aletta Collins Photographer: Eric Richmond
WOMEN PRODUCERS: Shared Passion and Tenacity PHOTOGRAPH: DAN WOOLLER
L-R: ROS POVEY, PAM SKINNER, CAROLE WINTER, THELMA HOLT, CAMERON MACKINTOSH, BECKY BARBER, SALLY GREENE, NIA JANIS, DESPINA TSTATSAS AND RACHEL TACKLEY DURING A RECEPTION TO LAUNCH THE STAGE ONE START-UP FUND FOR NEW PRODUCERS AT THE HOSPITAL CLUB, LONDON ON 19 MAY 2010
For the first time ever, a woman is President of the Theatrical Management Association at the same time as another woman is President of the Society of London Theatre. Rachel Tackley, Director of English Touring Theatre is the fourth woman (Prudence Skene 1991–92, Barbara Matthews 1998–01, Maggie Saxon 2001–04) to serve as TMA President and Nica Burns, Chief Executive of Nimax Theatres, the third (Verity Hudson 1986–88, Rosemary Squire 2005–08) for SOLT. Is this a sign of the times in the theatre industry? Six women, who produce in the subsidised and commercial sectors, speak about their shared and differing experiences as producers, and explore the question, what do you need to do to call yourself a ‘producer’? 6
None of the women has felt restricted working in theatre, or that being a woman has presented any greater challenges. ‘We are very lucky in our world and it is not particularly an issue,’ said Hedda Beeby, Artistic and Executive Director at the Watermill. Emma Stenning, Executive Director at Bristol Old Vic agrees, ‘I have never found gender an issue in my career.’ Rachel Tackley remembers that at her first TMA lunch, ‘which was a long time ago,’ she and Mary Lauder (General Manager at the Tricycle Theatre) were the only women present, but she is very clear that ‘I have never thought of myself as disadvantaged because I am a woman, never ever. I have never thought if I were a man I’d be running the National Theatre by now, this is scandalous.’ Carole Winter (MJE Productions), who early on found a producing partner in Michael Edwards, believes that ‘in any walk of life, male and female together can be beneficial, they have complementary skills.’
Rather than focus on gender, Becky Barber, the youngest commercial producer in the group and currently working on her West End co-producing debut, Birdsong (with CMP and ACT), feels that ‘it’s too easy to make sweeping generalisations and it’s more important to encourage new and young producers. We need committed, crazy people.’ ‘Committed, crazy people’. Is that what defines a producer? What other qualities are required of a successful producer? Becky continues, ‘You have to have a passion for it, be prepared to take risks, work hard, be collaborative, relationships are key and it helps if you’re a control freak!’ Tenacity, being driven and determined, holding your nerve, intuition, coping with stress are vital in this field. ‘You take a risk but you need a gut instinct,’ shares Carole Winter. ‘You need to hold your bottle because it gets very tense at times. Everything is deadline driven.’
PHOTOGRAPH: ROBERT DAY
Many of the women identify the same qualities, some of which could be argued as being innately female. The ability to juggle and multi-task, ‘a wide field of vision and being able to hold many things at once’ says Deborah Aydon, Executive Producer Liverpool Theatres while Rachel Tackley agrees that ‘You have to keep so many plates spinning as a producer, and you could easily assert that it’s a female trait.’ For all of them, the choice of people they work with is a fundamental prerequisite and the ability to put teams of people together to make a good show. Hedda Beeby believes that ‘women are collaborative by nature,’ they are relational and in Carole Winter’s experience, she has found that female producers ‘really care about the company and put a lot of energy into gelling a team. You have to have an understanding of psychology, be good at trying to get the best out of everyone.’ A common ability to nurture is recognised as key, ‘Do they need a vodka or a cup of tea, do they need me to shout at them or pay them overtime? You need to be a mind reader’ says Emma Stenning, or perhaps that innate empathy is simply a question of perception. Rachel Tackley muses ‘I don’t know whether this is because I am a woman or because I am not a director of plays, but the thing about ETT being at the table is that there is no ego. I can talk to anyone about anything and I don’t think I am threatening at all and that’s partly to do with being female. A natural empathy, having an empathetic attitude, or perhaps it’s because everyone thinks we do.
BRONTË: A PRODUCTION BY THE WATERMILL THEATRE AND SHARED EXPERIENCE
And I know not all female producers are like that, but maybe it’s what people think.’ On balance, the women see good producing as ultimately dependent on personalities. For Deborah Aydon, ‘There are so many individuals, men and women, so the qualities depend on the people,’ and for Emma Stenning, ‘Producing is an incredibly personal thing, there are shared qualities and skills but your personality defines your style of producing.’ For all the women the overriding quality, which is unquestionably
a universal one and underpins everything is passion. Thelma Holt, who was interviewed briefly for this article, stated, ‘I want to do it and that’s it.’ Passion is the quality all these women share and although their paths into producing may differ, what their careers have in common is a certainty in what they want to do, a single-mindedness and a sense of vocation which has motivated them. Their experience encompasses a broad spectrum which has enhanced their producer’s awareness – some form of theatre or drama studies at degree level, 7
“You have to have a passion for it, be prepared to take risks, work hard, be collaborative, relationships are key and it helps if you’re a control freak!”
time spent in box offices, acting, marketing and press, artist liaison, education – and they all acknowledge making the most of the willing help they have received from others further ahead in the industry, those who have encouraged, supported and offered brains to be picked.
PHOTOGRAPH: ROBERT DAY
Each of these female producers describe the elements of producing that excite them. For Deborah Aydon, ‘it’s the first spark, bringing the creative team together, laying the tracks.
Then seeing it in front of an audience and seeing their reaction.’ Hedda Beeby also loves ‘the moment when it first goes in front of an audience. I love seeing it all come together, I could sit in techs for hours and hours.’ For most the creative buzz comes from the people they choose to work with. ‘It is about the quality of relationships with particular artists which creates an unshakable trust and a shared taste,’ says Emma Stenning, who finds that her policy at Bristol Old Vic is ‘less defined by project
ENTERTAINING MR SLOANE: MATTHEW HORNE AS MR SLOANE AND IMELDA STAUNTON AS KATH
choices but the people I want to work with.’ Becky Barber similarly finds that there are ‘lots of people I want to work with. I love working with writers and directors and other producers. I love bringing different skills together and bringing those out in yourself.’ As a commercial producer, Becky knows that producing is the right match for her personality, ‘What really turns me on about producing is that it combines the creative with business, so left side/right side of the brain which is perfect because I have both sides to me.’ In terms of ideas and creative choices, Rachel Tackley, in her producing role as Director of ETT, actively employs an organic, spontaneous approach, ‘If I’m not going to direct the plays, there has to be more than one person in the room who’s going to be excited by them. That’s serving me and not really anybody else, so I meet with directors and producers and talk to them about what they want to do, and if that’s really exciting then I will look at trying to make it happen.’ Hedda Beeby has ‘an enormous list of plays’ that she would like to do and in the current economic climate believes that ‘cuts can be energising as they encourage you to think in different ways.’ Carole Winter has always known that what makes her ‘get up in the morning is work where it has an effect on someone else’, a philosophy which has shaped all she has done. As a producer, she seeks out ‘plays with a meaning and a purpose that have given me a taste of the world I live in, plays that have something to say, whether it is social justice in Twelve
PHOTOGRAPH: HELEN WARNER
CANARY BY JONATHAN HARVEY. A LIVERPOOL EVERYMAN AND PLAYHOUSE, ENGLISH TOURING THEATRE AND HAMPSTEAD THEATRE PRODUCTION
Angry Men or showing the wonder of the world in Tintin. And I’m very excited about the productions we’re doing next year,’ which include Ghost The Musical, ‘a great love story with music by Dave Stewart’ and Ruby Wax: Losing It.
So has it become easier for women? For some in the theatre industry, the very word ‘producer’ is open to interpretation, as Rachel Tackley states ‘the cut-off point between an enabler, a facilitator or a general manager and a producer is whether
you raise the money, so if you do everything to make a show happen but you don’t raise the money, then you’re not a producer.’ Deborah Aydon believes that the word ‘producer’ has evolved and the same role today may have been described as an ‘administrator’ in the recent past, ‘You may
PHOTOGRAPH: SIMON ANNAND
Producing in the subsidised and commercial sectors present differing challenges and for those in the subsidised sector, ‘producing is less about raising money and more about the strategic direction of a project and dealing with admin,’ says Deborah Aydon. For Emma Stenning it means she ‘can afford to make the right investment in the right creative team without putting a commercial pressure on it.’ Carole Winter and Rachel Tackley, who happily co-produced Entertaining Mr Sloane, recognise that in the subsidised sector, without the constraints of ‘casting’, there is the adventure of experiment and the right to fail. Rachel asserts that what distinguishes commercial and subsidised work is firstly the choice of project ‘I can do plays with lots of people in, that I know are going to haemorrhage money and I can take risks to make as much exciting theatre as I can’ and, secondly, finance. ‘The only difference really is where you get the money from. Once the money’s there, once you start producing, as I did with Carole, I don’t think we disagreed on
anything but she was coming at it from a commercial perspective and I was coming at it from a subsidised perspective.’ Carole is very aware that the marriage between subsidised and commercial is essential and that government investment has meant that ‘there are wonderful people running fabulous buildings, there are terrific new writers. It is in a very healthy place and is feeding commercial theatre.’ By contrast, Becky Barber has a flair for raising money through investment and clearly articulates the personal reasons behind a potential investor’s choice to invest, an understanding which no doubt contributes to her success in gaining finance. Investing ‘allows people to access a world which otherwise would remain very mysterious. Whether they make money or lose it all, I ensure that they have a good time along the way and that we take them on a journey. I keep investors fully informed cast-wise, about press and marketing. Those relationships are very precious and I never forget that we couldn’t do it without them.’
FAR AWAY: ELEANOR BAILEY AS YOUNG JOAN AND ANNETTE BADLAND AS HARPER AT BRISTOL OLD VIC
SEPT 2010 PHOTOGRAPH: ROBERT DAY
“…it used to be that you were a General Manager if you were a man and you were an administrator if you were a woman…”
be the only person in the company but that’s what we were called in those days.’ Appointed as General Manager at the Bush Theatre ‘at the ripe old age of 26, it was only as I was leaving that I suggested the title should be raised to Executive Producer.’ Continuing on Deborah’s theme of changing names in changing times, Rachel Tackley says, ‘15 years ago, it used to be that you were a General Manager if you were a man and you were an administrator if you were a woman – you could do exactly the same job for the same company. In the old days, men ran theatres, the buildings, and women ran companies, whereas now, a lot of the young producers I meet are women, a lot, probably more than men.’ In Emma Stenning’s experience, ‘the major jobs among the artistic directors are more male-dominated but on this side of things, women hold out pretty well: Vikki [Heywood] at the RSC, Kate [Horton] at the Royal Court, then there was Genista McIntosh. In the big 11 regional theatres the majority of Executive Directors are women.’ Significant numbers of women now work at senior level, as ‘producers’, which can be attributed to a flourishing of opportunity and increasing confidence. ‘Now nobody would walk out of university aged 21 10
SPEND SPEND SPEND! THE WATERMILL THEATRE’S PRODUCTION. WINNER OF 2009 TMA BEST MUSICAL & BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS IN A MUSICAL FOR KIRSTY HOILES IS ABOUT TO START A SEVEN VENUE UK TOUR ON 28 SEPTEMBER
having produced a play at a small London pub theatre and call themselves an “administrator”,’ offers Rachel Tackley. In Carole Winter’s experience, ‘it is easier now if you are going to be a producer, there are better networks. I met Nick Salmon in 1996 when we were doing Twelve Angry Men and there were very, very few women, it was tough to get in the door. There was no help like now, no networks, no bodies like Stage One where people are very generous with their time.’ Carole Winter and Thelma Holt both mentor young producers through Stage One, and ETT currently runs two producing bursaries. The youngest women in this group, Emma Stenning and Becky Barber, are beneficiaries of training and funding through the Stage One workshop and its bursary scheme.
Although disparity still exists as Hedda Beeby explains, ‘when a woman has to leave a meeting early, there are eyes raised but when a man has to leave early to take a child to ballet or do bath time, everyone says what marvellous childcare!’, it would appear that issues around gender are slowly being rectified though Deborah Aydon states ‘there is still some way to go in the bigger institutions.’ Rachel Tackley asserts that what matters, above all, is that ‘we ensure these young producers turn out to be great producers. We need to encourage and mentor them’ while Carole Winter adds, ‘there needs to be effort put into training and encouraging women, to learn the whole business of theatre.’ Thelma Holt passionately believes
PHOTOGRAPH: PHILIP TULL
HEROES: WATERMILL THEATRE
that ‘we desperately need new producers, we need youth’ and both she and Carole Winter dedicate considerable time and energy to their roles as Stage One mentors. Embodying the buoyancy of youth, for Becky Barber it is more important ‘to wave the flag as a new producer, I want to be known as a good producer rather than a producer who is a woman.’ Good producers, great producers, whether female or male, whether commercial or subsidised, in these hands lie the future of British theatre.
STAGE ONE: Stage One, the charity committed to developing and supporting producers for the commercial theatre industry, co-ordinates: a three day workshop designed to give new producers a broad overview of producing commercially; a successful bursary scheme which offers financial and practical assistance to new producers at the very start of their careers; an apprentice scheme which was set up in 2007 to offer hands on training opportunities for emerging producers. www.stageone.uk.com
I JULIA HALLAWELL JULIA HALLAWELL IS A FREELANCE PR CONSULTANT WHO HANDLES PRESS AND MEDIA RELATIONS FOR THE SOCIETY OF LONDON THEATRE
WRITING FOR CHILDREN: at the crossroads (again) PHOTOGRAPH: KARL ANDRE PHOTOGRAPHY
SARAH QUINTRELL AS ROBERTA IN THE RAILWAY CHILDREN: A YORK THEATRE ROYAL PRODUCTION
PHOTOGRAPH: KARL ANDRE PHOTOGRAPHY
Have children’s stories ever had a higher profile in the theatre? War Horse continues to make fidelity theatrically attractive in the West End, The Railway Children (which was a great gamble in York) now makes all the right connections at Waterloo and Matilda is coming up in Stratford at Christmas when you will also be able to find the usual classics (The Secret Garden, Peter Pan, A Christmas Carol) in theatrical form as well as pantomime. To these you might plausibly add Oliver! and its scheduled replacement, Shrek. And it’s not so long since His Dark Materials, Wind in the Willows, Mary Poppins and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang filled large theatres with thousands of children and almost equally enchanted parents. But what distinguishes these titles, apart from all being adaptations of novels of a certain age, is their scale and cost. They are family shows, but to take a family of four to see them, and throw in a burger and a coke, you may need to lighten your wallet by a three-figure sum. This is not the way of what we commonly identify as “children’s theatre” which, long-serving champion David Wood has always argued, should include free shows ‘so that every primary school child should be able to go and see some theatre once for nothing.’ Wood, who has largely operated within the commercial world himself, finds it ‘extraordinary and exciting that managers, producers and even to some extent the money-people now see children as a viable audience.’ He is particularly pleased at the success of The Railway Children given director Damian Cruden’s sustained and passionate advocacy of theatre for children and the involvement of a genuine children’s writer in Mike Kenny: ‘one of the best,’ says Wood, ‘and you know it will be done with integrity and quality’. ‘But lots of children simply won’t be able to see any of these shows. We’ve got to watch out that the smaller companies who are going into local arts centres, schools and village halls are not lost in the forthcoming cuts. These companies are run by people who really want to do children’s theatre – actors, designers, directors, physical theatre companies. It’s not ideal for financial reward and I think it still carries a bit of a stigma within the business. Once you get identified with children’s theatre you get pigeon-holed.’ And he recalls that after ten years acting for adults as a young man, including a stint at the RSC, he did Play Away and Jackanory for BBC television and found, in the studio canteen in Acton, that it
THE RAILWAY CHILDREN: A YORK THEATRE ROYAL PRODUCTION: SARAH QUINTRELL AS ROBERTA, JONATHAN RACE AS PETER AND FRANCES MARSHALL AS PHYLLIS
was assumed he would sit at the “children’s table” while the Dad’s Army and classic serial casts sat elsewhere. Academic interest in children’s theatre in Britain remains almost negligible. Uncomfortable with the idea of “issue” plays, Wood has lived the strange experience of being simultaneously massively successful and an outsider both in the grown-up commercial camp and the smallerscale, often right-on world, of dedicated children’s companies and rep outreach and education departments. He still remembers being attacked at a conference in the 1970s over his dramatisation of Edward Lear’s famous poem as The Owl and the Pussycat Went to See … on the grounds that it ended in marriage and toured actual theatres, thus celebrating two anathematised middle class social constructs at once. But his anxiety now is for precisely the companies that will be considered for cuts when the local authority and Arts Council budgets are set in the autumn. Outreach and education work are rarely self-supporting and how many reps regard them as part of the “core activity” once the rhetoric is costed by the finance department? Theatre Centre, founded by Brian Way in 1953 (before the National Theatre and the Royal Shakespeare Company), has been in the front line of children’s theatre for longer than even the oldest pantomime dame. ‘Our biggest ‘high’ is that we’re still here’, says General 13
PHOTOGRAPH: ROBERT DAY
FLYER FOR THE DAY THE WATERS CAME
Manager Charles Bishop. ‘We are highly subsidised, 80% of our income, and we’re proud that the Arts Council still values us as a company that tours nationally into schools and other venues.’ Theatre Centre probably does do “issue” plays, though it strikes me that we only use that pejorative label when the characters and narrative are dwarfed by the argument, or, to put it another way, when the play itself hasn’t worked as a play.
“When you do grown-up shows there’s a tacit agreement with the audience who are already theatre-literate and recognise certain signals…with children the response is instant, everything is new, and I think that means we have to be more exciting in the choices we make” didn’t. Even what’s happening in New Orleans now, the rebuilding, is only happening in the nice people’s areas.’ Maya’s father is dead and her brother in trouble, but the family is close-knit and she sets out to find her mother, a nurse. Her encounters along the way to the Superdome and back allow Maya to tell the story of the day, with one other female actor and two males to play all the other parts, once again supported by choral music and choreography. ‘I defy any 13-year-old to be bored,’ says Evans and adds that there is so much history, ecology, geography, politics and drama in it that teachers could get a year’s work out of it.
Take Lisa Evans’ most famous children’s play, Stamping, Shouting and Singing Home. First produced by Watford TIE in 1986 and strikingly revived at Polka in 2006, it’s about an issue all right – slavery and lynching. But told via spiritual music and the feisty firstperson account of the latest in a long line of strong-willed and trouble-embracing women, it attacks you via the heart rather than the head (which already knows the argument anyway). Evans’ latest play is in rehearsal for an October opening at Unicorn. The Day the Waters Came is again the story of a central figure – a 14-year-old girl in New Orleans recalling as she wakes up with night sweats, one year on, the day Hurricane Katrina struck.
Of course there are constraints in writing for children – no swearing, no sex – but ‘I quite like constraints.’ Otherwise ‘It’s all writing. A soap (she has written for EastEnders) is technically different because you never actually close a scene, but otherwise I don’t see much difference in writing plays for children. You have to stick within their frame of reference. That’s why I have a child protagonist as a hook.’
The ‘issue’ as Evans describes the play, is why, as the levees broke and the people waited for the authorities to come to their aid, nobody did: ‘The Americans shoot off all over the world dealing with various troubles. The people said “They will come” and they
There may even be additional freedoms. Evans has an all-black cast who will ‘put me right’, and this allows her to show badly-behaved black characters. Writing for children she gets access to people’s life stories and to their playfulness.
STOMPING, SHOUTING AND SINGING HOME: POLKA THEATRE
who are already theatre-literate and recognise certain signals… with children the response is instant, everything is new, and I think that means we have to be more exciting in the choices we make.’ Often in children’s theatre, as in The Day the Waters Came, a very small cast will be required to represent a huge gallery of characters clearly enough for children not only to tell who’s who but to make their significance to the story clear. As Wilson says: ‘Sometimes we’ll have a character who appears for no more than four or five lines. Even in a piece that is played as social realism you’ve got to make immediate choices to establish them.’
STOMPING, SHOUTING AND SINGING HOME: POLKA THEATRE
Theatre Centre’s Artistic Director, Natalie Wilson, is open about the political attraction of theatre for young people. ‘I’d got quite weary of mainstream theatre and who it was for. I always wanted to use theatre to give visibility and a voice to those who didn’t have it, to theatre-makers as well as to the characters and the audience. When you do grown-up shows there’s a tacit agreement with the audience
Wilson’s first commission for the company was Ashmeed Sohoye’s Rigged. Sohoye is a British Asian who was working at a London school as a learning mentor and became preoccupied with the lack of aspiration and under-achievement of working class white boys. His protagonist, Nathan, is a tearaway, complete with ASBO, but his girlfriend does want to get the best education she can. When she falls pregnant, he’s moved to change his life but finds the avenues are now closed down and opts for the armed forces. Theatre Centre did not commission the issue, but the play Sohoye wanted to write. Wilson says: ‘What was brilliant is that you think this story is issue-laden but the young people who saw it just 15
PHOTOGRAPH: ROBERT DAY
RIGGED, THEATRE CENTRE 2009 PRODUCTION FOR YOUNG PEOPLE AGED 14+
thought: ‘This boy has a lot of things going on.’ Every time you have contact with an institution at that age, issues do emerge. You might not want to be in the same room with Nathan, one of the actors said, but you do have compassion for him.’ Tapping compassion, the heart of the live theatre experience, is about more than character and even story. Charles Bishop recalls peeping through the curtains at the audience in one of our most famous proscenium arch theatres when there was a show for children in progress and realising just how physically far away many of the children were and how they were emotionally distanced too. We’ve all seen young audiences that have resorted to amusing themselves in the circumstances.
their audiences. Given that they will have to play a string of parts they have to be highly skilled at instant characterisation, changes of pace, voice, manner and mood but not of costume or props. They have to transmit the energy of a music video. Roy Williams began at Theatre Centre with dreams of acting (he’s on the board now) and watching a recent revival of his play There’s Only One Wayne Matthews in Sheffield, in which two young black actors played the aspiring schoolboy footballers, their parents, teachers, peers, rivals and girlfriends, I was exhilarated by the sheer exuberant versatility of the performance.
Theatre Centre’s solution was partly in the staging, initially always in the round, latterly usually on three sides. It means the audience never has to be more than three or four rows away. I think we need more purpose-built children’s theatres in addition to Polka and the Unicorn, especially away from London. A child in the stalls of a proscenium arch barn may literally not be able to see the stage at all, but that may be another article.
Was this the same planet as George’s Marvellous Medicine, David Wood’s seventh Roald Dahl adaptation, directed by the redoubtable Phil Clark, which is currently on a tour that lasts till next April after a 14-week Christmas run at the Old Rep in Birmingham? This is a play for four-year-olds and upwards in which a small boy invents a potion to deal with his grandmother’s bad temper only to find it has other far-reaching effects: fantasy, compared with the social and political realism of Rigged and The Day the Waters Came. But children do experience adults as grumpy (or worse) so George has to be identifiable-with, grandma recognisable and the action speedy.
Even big stories generally have to be told in under an hour, ideally by actors who can play not so far away in age or background from
Shortly before he died, Noel Greig did some dramaturgical work on Rigged. But I also remember Phil Clark directing (brilliantly) an
PHOTOGRAPH: ROBERT DAY
PHOTOGRAPH: ROBERT DAY
RIGGED, THEATRE CENTRE 2009 PRODUCTION FOR YOUNG PEOPLE AGED 14+
JAKE & CAKE, THEATRE CENTRE’S 2010 PRODUCTION AIMED AT CHILDREN AGED 6+
extraordinary play from Greig called A Plague of Innocents in the 1980s, about the panic surrounding AIDS, which he handed over as a long poem without any characters or speakers identified and with no stage directions. The result, for many who saw it, was one of the most memorable theatre events of their lives.
Harmston; add Roy Williams to that and you’ve got about as eclectic a bunch, apart from the fact that they were all boys, as you could wish for to support a case that children’s theatre is part of the life blood of grown-up theatre. Cut one, and you cut the other a little further down the line.
So writing for children is at once a very broad church that deserves not to be subjected to easy generalisation and another part of the same large and tangled forest that is theatre generally. When David Wood sighs over scripts he is sent in which the first 20 minutes consist of two people talking across a table I observe that this is a problem with grown-up plays too, especially if they are called A and B or The Man and The Woman.
I PAUL ALLEN PAUL ALLEN IS A BROADCASTER AND PLAYWRIGHT. IN THE 1980s HE BEGAN A LONG ASSOCIATION WITH THE RADIO 4 ARTS MAGAZINE ‘KALEIDOSCOPE’ AND FROM 1998 UNTIL 2006 PRESENTED ‘NIGHT WAVES’ ON RADIO 3. HE HAS RECENTLY RETURNED TO THE BBC TO PRESENT A SHORT SERIES OF ‘NIGHT WAVES’ PROGRAMMES. HIS PLAYS HAVE BEEN PRODUCED ON RADIO AND IN THEATRES ACROSS THE COUNTRY, INCLUDING HIS ADAPTATION OF BRASSED
With a murky future facing the Arts Council and local authorities themselves, the prospects for children’s theatre are especially obscure. Rumours from Great Peter Street suggest imminent investment in some sort of national touring project for children’s theatre but money for this will have to come from somewhere else.
OFF. IN 2006 HE BECAME THE FIRST FELLOW IN CREATIVITY AND PERFORMANCE AT THE UNIVERSITY OF WARWICK.
Wood says his greatest satisfaction comes from the people who tell him they work in theatre because they saw something of his (often The Plotters of Cabbage Patch Corner) when they were about eight. Recently they have included Jonathan Church, Phil Willmot and Joe 17
PLAYING AT THE PALACE: 100 years of theatre in Mansfield David Edwards Mansfield appears to be the very model of a modern local authority. Instead of rival parties toeing party lines, the Council is run in the best interests of the District by members of an Independent Forum; instead of a Chief Executive, there is a Managing Director; the Mayor is directly elected (one of only twelve in the whole country) and the directly-funded theatre plays a crucial role in the delivery of the cultural strategy.
Over the ensuing years, the theatre presented a combination of the latest cinema releases and stage shows, changed hands several times, and enjoyed varying fortunes. Revues became staple fare, and in the early 1950s you could have seen such saucy titles as Nudes are News, Taking off Tonight and We Couldn’t Wear Less. Several repertory companies sought to bring more serious work to the
PHOTOGRAPH: LOUISE ATKIN
PHOTOGRAPH: TRACEY FOSTER PHOTOGRAPHY
The Palace Theatre has been celebrating its centenary throughout 2010. Built over 22 weeks, it opened on 13 December 1910 as the Palace Electric Theatre, where you could watch the latest moving pictures, along with all kinds of live entertainment from comedians and dancers to illusionists and ventriloquists. For the ‘popular price’
of 4d you could watch from the ‘elegantly appointed’ stalls, or splash out and sit in the Grand Circle for 1s. Advertised as ‘luxuriously furnished and decorated, comfortably heated and ventilated’, the new theatre, with its striking ornamental plaster façade (long since disappeared) was deemed a handsome addition to the public buildings of Mansfield.
THE ORIGINAL AND ORNATE FRONTAGE OF THE PALACE ELECTRIC THEATRE, 1910
FRONTAGE PRESENT DAY
PHOTOGRAPH: NORTHERN BROADSIDES
Looking for experience in UK regional theatre, he accepted the post in Mansfield. Soon after he arrived he put his extensive experience in arts management to good use and Mansfield became one of the first theatres to submit a successful bid to the National Lottery. An initial grant of £40,000 paid for a feasibility study, and in January 1997 a further grant of £1.6 million was awarded towards the cost of upgrading, refurbishing and redeveloping the theatre, including improving facilities for disabled people. Increased costs led to a second bid, and a subsequent sum of £129,420 was awarded towards the installation of a counterweight system within the new 60-foot fly tower, plus a number of other improvements. Andrew moved from the tiny broom cupboard behind the circle that was his office to new accommodation along the side of the building. The whole project – which included the creation of improved wing space, the excavation of a new orchestra pit below the stage, the widening of the proscenium arch, improved seating and a complete overhaul of the public areas – cost around £2 million, making the Palace a much more attractive venue for both artists and audiences. In addition to the £1.8 million from the Lottery, the Palace received £65,000 from European funding, with the balance coming from the District Council.
NORTHERN BROADSIDES’ PRODUCTION, CANTERBURY TALES
theatre’s stage, but all succumbed to financial pressures, and the theatre went dark. The Council purchased the building for £10,000 in 1955 ‘for the cultural and educational benefit of the town’, and re-opened it as The Civic Hall the following year.
PHOTOGRAPH: NOTTINGHAM EVENING POST
Originally the responsibility of the Markets and Civic Buildings Committee, the theatre passed to the Libraries and Museums Committee in 1966, and the scope of the theatre’s programme was widened. A founder member of the National Council for Civic Theatres, it set up its own professional tours, and in 1967 became the venue for the first Mansfield Festival. After a name change to The Civic Theatre in 1969, it reverted (after consultation through the local paper) to the original ‘Palace’ in 1995.
Now designated as a regional mid-scale touring venue with the best of backstage facilities, there was pressure on Andrew to develop and diversify the professional programme. However, over many years, a number of amateur companies, including several local dance schools, had booked regular weeks in the theatre’s calendar, not only for performances but also for rehearsals. If Andrew was going to broaden the scope of the work on offer – including drama, classical music, opera and contemporary dance – something had to give. Unsurprisingly, he met some opposition from the community groups, but when the matter was brought before the councillors, he found them to be supportive and a modus vivendi was achieved. A users group now meets annually, and community groups and theatre management now work happily together. Five local companies are collaborating to produce a celebratory variety show at the theatre in the autumn as part of the centenary tributes.
Today, culture, tourism and heritage all fall within the remit of the Council’s portfolio holder for Regeneration. The Council’s Business Transformation Strategy aims to drive an effective cross-Council approach to delivering services. Mansfield’s Cultural Strategy explicitly seeks a shared approach, and places cultural development at the heart of its plan to regenerate a town that faces many challenges. Andrew Tucker is Cultural Services Manager, and is responsible for the day-to-day management of the Palace Theatre, as well as the award-winning museum next door. Andrew was appointed in December 1994. His gentle South African accent indicates his background; prior to relocating to the UK, Andrew had been General Manager of the Natal Playhouse, and Deputy General Director of the Natal Performing Arts Council.
ANDREW TUCKER, AT HOME IN THE BEAUTIFULLY REFURBISHED AUDITORIUM OF THE MANSFIELD PALACE THEATRE
PHOTOGRAPH: THE COMEDY THEATRE COMPANY
ANDREW DUNN AND LAURA SHEPPHARD, VICTORIA WOOD’S DINNERLADIES
When Andrew arrived at Mansfield, the theatre was presenting some 180 performances a year, playing to an average capacity of 55 per cent. Now, there are between 240 and 250 performances each year, playing to over 70 per cent of capacity. Andrew has been trying to raise the game by booking more professional drama – a range of both classic and new work – into the Palace’s programme. Michael Cabot’s London Classic Theatre (celebrating its 10th anniversary as a touring company this year) is a regular visitor (this October it is bringing The Caretaker to Mansfield), as are Middle Ground, Shared Experience and Hull Truck. Some bookings are for one night only, others are for full weeks. Victoria Wood’s dinnerladies did very well over a full week in May with a top ticket price of £22. Andrew was delighted to have hosted Northern Broadsides’ recent production of The Canterbury Tales, a production on a grander scale than usual. However, despite a top price of just £15, its unfortunate scheduling in the week of the general election had a negative impact on attendances. While clearly frustrated at the disappointing size of the audience, Andrew is not downhearted – he has a contingency fund that he has accumulated for this centenary year which will help to mop up shortfalls on shows that fail to reach their targets. The annual pantomime virtually sells out 62 performances over five weeks. English Sinfonia and Viva have brought classical music to the Palace, and Swansea City Opera and Mid-Wales Opera regularly pay one-night visits, as do dance companies such as Moscow Ballet La Classique, Ballet Ireland, and The National Dance Company of Ireland. Repeat bookings of concerts such as the Ukulele Orchestra show audiences building. 20
‘Our audiences come from within a 40-minute drive time from the centre of Mansfield’ Andrew explains, ‘but the share of the audience from Mansfield itself has grown significantly’. The Palace gets measured not only on attendances but usage; the amount of backstage participation is as important to the local authority. A glance through the theatre’s brochure shows that Mansfield’s numerous community groups still play a major role in the Palace’s annual programme. A condition of Lottery funding was the creation of a part-time Education Officer, a role that has expanded over time to a full-time Manager. Additional funds have been acquired for a wide ranging programme of work within the whole community. The Mansfield Palace Youth Theatre attracts young people aged from 5 to 18 years to work with professional tutors to develop and gain experience in the performing arts, which culminate in stage performances. In May this year, the junior group (5–7 year olds) performed What a Lot of Nonsense (adapted from the poems of Michael Rosen) at the Old Library, while the following month the intermediate youth theatre company, Stage Left and Stage Right (8–12 year olds) were on the main stage with The Ballad of Robin Hood and The Quest for the Holy Pael. In June, an adult group, the Community Theatre Company performed Under Milk Wood on the main stage. The set and costumes were designed professionally, and created by students from the New College Nottingham. On the Write Track is an initiative originally funded by Arts Council England (ACE), now in its third year that gives two local writers the
PHOTOGRAPH: TRACEY FOSTER PHOTOGRAPHY
A MOST WELCOMING AND HOMELY THEATRE FOYER, REDECORATED FOR ITS BIRTHDAY YEAR
opportunity to work with a professional, former playwright-inresidence Kevin Fegan. The writers are chosen on the basis of submitted scripts, and work on a new play with Fegan for six weeks, at the end of which the plays are given public rehearsed readings with a team of professional actors and a director. Older people are not ignored. Growing Bolder is a participatory initiative for the over 60s, set up in 2000 with support from ACE and the District and County Councils. Professional workshop leaders cover a wide range of art forms, from creative writing to belly dancing, drumming to photography, with a public sharing at the end of each course. The average age of the participants is between 65 and 75, but some people who have been involved since the project’s inception are now in their 90s. An off-shoot of Growing Bolder is Grey Matters, a group of writers emerging from the poetry and prose-writing courses, while another group, inspired by the photography courses, have formed Bolder Vision. The Palace also works as a facilitator with organisations such as SureStart to encourage people currently feeling excluded from the theatre to become attendees through projects, and devises and produces work as a tool for change in the community. It has worked with local partner agencies on an alcohol-awareness project and is currently working on a healthy living project. Meanwhile, the Palace programme includes a range of work suitable for schools and families, ranging in subject from Shakespeare to maths and science. In 2009, Samanya Theatre Company was
“Our economic impact study shows a return of £3 million on the council’s investment” commissioned to produce a primary school tour using story-telling, music and puppetry. The Palace is breaking new ground by hosting the local Gang Show, which celebrates the centenary of scouting in Mansfield, for the first time later this year. ‘This will be a great opportunity to get new audiences into the theatre,’ says Andrew ‘and put the Palace on their radar.’ The Palace runs Groucho’s Bar during performances and makes a healthy – and growing – surplus. The increased turnover has helped to bring down the direct cost to the local authority, and Andrew is thrilled that the recent District Council’s Leisure and Cultural Services ‘Options Appraisal’ carried out by independent consultants, concluded that arts and culture could not be run more economically. Mansfield District Council’s vision is to create a more positive image of the district, and create circumstances in which everyone can enjoy a good quality of life. A strategy has been produced which clearly identifies culture as the engine that will help to deliver this. The support of the District Council for the Palace appears to be exemplary. ‘I have never had the feeling that theatre in Mansfield is seen as an indulgence,’ says Andrew. ‘I hold the view that we don’t lose around £425k of the Council’s money as subsidy, we use it for the benefit of the district.’ He invited the councillor in charge of finances (together with his grandson) to spend a day with him at the theatre to find out just how resources were spent and he felt that this had been an eye-opener. ‘Our economic impact study shows a return of £3 million on the council’s investment,’ says Andrew. ‘I can say, give me £1 for marketing, and I will give you £1.50 in return’. 21
PHOTOGRAPH: TRACEY FOSTER PHOTOGRAPHY
MANSFIELD PALACE THEATRE AUDITORIUM
The theatre is not run by a Board, instead Andrew reports directly to the Leisure and Cultural Services Manager. The theatre is set financial year-end targets, but within that framework Andrew has complete flexibility. The service plan for the theatre seeks to increase attendances from an estimated 155,000 in 2009/10 to 163,500 by 2012/13. He meets on a monthly basis to discuss the theatre’s phased budgets and production returns. Andrew says he enjoys the support of both officers and councillors, and can boast of never having had a situation where the council has had to step in since the refurbishment that gave the theatre its much needed new lease of life. He also pays tribute to his colleagues; he is most appreciative and proud of the wonderful team ethos that exists in the theatre, where his dedicated staff take great pride in their work and achievements. Andrew is also making the business case for the theatre to the business community. Mansfield 20/20 is a public/private agency that exists to promote and revitalise the town after the decline of the traditional mining and textile industries. There is a prominent link to the Palace website along with the Palace logo on its home page. ‘I feel proud that we have been able to change people’s perceptions of what Mansfield has to offer,’ says Andrew. ‘I like people to know that a market town like Mansfield is bringing quality theatre to their doorstep.’ His next task is to secure funding for the final chapter in the history of the theatre’s regeneration, which is to replace the now dated frontage. He is putting forward a costed plan, and is hoping to obtain the funds through some future Section 106 agreement once the economy improves. 22
Andrew has been asked by the Council to find savings in the current year. He has a strategy whereby this can be achieved without damaging the infrastructure of the theatre. However, in July, when we met, he had no information as to the impact of local government cutbacks on cultural services in the longer term. He believes that he has on board the key politicians who acknowledge the value of the Palace to the local community. The Palace is, however, involved in a drive to reduce energy costs across the Council by 35 per cent over the next five years, and is already leading the field, after a Carbon Trust inspection, through the installation of energy-efficient lighting and improved insulation in the roof void. Whatever the impact of future cuts, it appears that the Palace Theatre is in a good place. In a foreword to the theatre’s centenary publication, The Leeming Light Shines Bright, the Executive Mayor, Tony Egginton, acknowledges the place the theatre has held, over the years, in the hearts of the people of the town, and how the lives of the whole community have been touched. As they move into their second century, the work continues.
I DAVID EDWARDS DAVID EDWARDS IS THE CHAIRMAN OF THE NEW WOLSEY THEATRE, IPSWICH
PRUE SKENE In the third of a series of interviews with senior members of the profession about their early career, Peter Morris talks to Prue Skene, who has had a long association with Rambert Dance Company, both as Executive Director and Chair of the Board. Prue was elected the first woman President of the TMA in 1991 and subsequently served on the Arts Council and many other major bodies. She was awarded the CBE in 2000.
the role with another girl. I played the matinee and she got the evening so I don’t think I was very good. Like Cameron Mackintosh, I was very taken with Salad Days and I can still remember all the songs and everyone who was in it. PM: Did you go on to higher education?
PM: Is there any history of involvement in the theatre in your family? PS: None. I don’t remember being taken to the theatre in London at all, but what is extraordinary is that from the age of eight I wanted to be an actress. I didn’t tell anyone about it but somehow the seeds had been sown from somewhere. I later remember going with my mother to Stratford through the magical countryside and everything was very golden and I wanted to be a part of it. My mother was a great reader so there was quite an emphasis on literature, but I was extremely shy about articulating my interest in acting so nothing ever came of it. PM: Did you act at school? PS: I played Viola in Twelfth Night when I was about fourteen. That was at Francis Holland School near Regent’s Park. I shared
PS: No, I left school at sixteen. There was no pressure for me to go to university. I took a secretarial course and went into the Foreign Office as a secretary. I was in the Claims Department – the most boring job in the world! One day I saw an advert for a secretary at the new National Theatre which then just had a Board and a Secretary who was Kenneth Rae. He and his assistant, Yolande Bird, occupied a little house in Goodwin’s Court off St. Martin’s Lane. They were the `office’ of the National Theatre at that time. It was 1963, Laurence Olivier had just been appointed Artistic Director and Stephen Arlen the Administrator. I got the job, so suddenly I was in theatre! I was at Goodwin’s Court for about six months and then we moved near the Old Vic to the portakabins in Duchy Street. The company was recruited and there was all this talent around in these funny little portakabins and there was I, typing away, but getting to know all about the language of the theatre. The company then moved into the Old Vic for the first production which was Hamlet. It was a very exciting time. PM: How could you bear to leave that? PS: Well, I got engaged to someone who was working with the impresario, Willie Donaldson. Willie and my fiancé had started this entertainment agency and we were going to build it up and become great entertainment entrepreneurs. Unfortunately neither the agency nor the engagement worked out. I then went to work with John
Gale at the Strand Theatre to get some commercial experience. John went into film production with Leslie Phillips and made a film called Maroc 7 which meant going out to Morocco. In 1968, I did an overland trip to India and went on to Australia. I got a job there as a tour manager for a French drama company and the English Opera Group. I toured all over Australia for two years, so that was my first managerial experience. Looking back now, I’m amazed at how I just drifted in without any qualifications. It was a steep learning curve. PM: There is nothing like being plunged in the deep end. PS: Yes, I’m afraid I never did an Arts Administration course. When I came back I got a job as Deputy Administrator at the Round House which was run, at the time, by George Hoskins. There was no programming money. Every weekend there was a rock concert, so on Monday mornings the place was awash with syringes! During the week we did other things such as Jerome Savary’s anarchic French group, Le Grand Magic Circus. It was my first experience of running a venue so, again, a steep learning curve. PM: Was there anyone you could turn to for advice? PS: No, but I had picked up a lot from working at the National Theatre about producing plays and also about running a theatre. A lot of it was just common sense. When I was at the Round House, Ballet Rambert, as it then was, did a season there and I remember talking to Tim Mason, the Administrator, who told me he was leaving and encouraged me to apply for the job. I knew little about dance, although I’d been very impressed by the Twyla Tharp Company, but Tim said that didn’t matter. Amazingly they gave me the job. John 23
“…I’m not a very good feminist! I didn’t think about being the first woman President. I would like to say I was breaking the mould but – perhaps I’ve been lucky…”
Chesworth was the Artistic Director and Christopher Bruce, who was such a marvellous dancer with the company, was appointed Associate Choreographer at the same time as I was appointed. I thought it was an extraordinarily friendly world, the world of dance. Again, I’d fallen into something without any qualifications. I think that if you’re interested in something there’s a lot to be said for getting in at some level and learning about it. PM: This was about the time that contemporary dance was really beginning to have an impact. PS: Yes, Rambert and London Contemporary Dance were moving into bigger theatres. There was an exciting growth of interest. Looking back, it seems like something of a golden age. Externally, it was a difficult time with high inflation, but internally the job was much easier than it is now. Now it’s hugely complicated with everything that’s being demanded. Then it was just me and my assistant, the wonderful John Webley. Sponsorship wasn’t a fundamental part of the budget in those days and we had a very good relationship with Jane Nicholas, Dance Director at the Arts Council. She was extremely supportive, as was the touring department under Jack Phipps. Jack wanted to get contemporary dance into bigger theatres in his own entrepreneurial, inimitable way. PM: Was Madame Rambert still alive at this time? PS: Yes, I knew her well. It was extraordinary that she was in her late seventies when Norman Morrice, who was Artistic Director, told her that the company, which was then classical, needed to be stripped down to about twenty dancers and become the first British contemporary dance company. 24
She absolutely went along with it, went to rehearsals, sat in the front row at performances and played an influential part. It was her family and it still has that family feel.
which got passed around in the wings from one actor to another. It couldn’t happen now as so many hurdles would have to be jumped, whereas then it was a case of `this is a great idea, let’s get on and do it.’
PM: Which Artistic Directors did you work with?
PM: So you left after three years?
PS: John Chesworth was there until about 1980, then there was a short interregnum. Christopher Bruce didn’t want to take it on at that stage as he was freelancing successfully all over the world, so Robert North was appointed – he was Artistic Director when we did a big international tour of the United States – and then Richard Alston took over in 1985. PM: It seems that you were very wedded to Rambert at the time, so what made you move on? PS: I had moved to Bath and did a year trying to commute but found it a bit of a killer. I had been at Rambert 11 years and felt I’d done what I could. I didn’t quite know what to do but one day I was having lunch with Jack Phipps and he told me that the English Shakespeare Company, run by Michael Bogdanov and Michael Pennington, which had done the Henry IV plays and Henry V very successfully, had big plans to expand their repertoire to include all the History Plays and wanted an Executive Producer. It was a three day a week job – in theory! – so suited my situation in Bath. I thought it would be lovely to go back into the theatre. The company had a project grant from the Arts Council and sponsorship from the Allied Irish Bank who were very supportive. They did seven plays in a week with twenty-five actors and went round the world three times. We actually ended up with a small surplus. It was all slightly mad and risky. There was a joke that there was only one pair of trousers
PS: I did, but I went back after a year when the organisation was growing with a larger support structure but it wasn’t as successful. PM: When you and I first met in the late 1970s, you were a serenely diplomatic chair of the TMA’s ballet negotiations with Equity. Was that your first involvement with the TMA? PS: I had been to one or two general meetings and been rather overawed by all the eminent people there. When I joined Rambert I was expected to represent them on the various negotiating bodies and was asked to take over the chair. We had very good lunches in those days! The lunches were lovely and gossipy. You made friends. PM: Yes, sadly, the lunches have gone now. People just don’t have the time which is a pity as it was a wonderful way of sharing problems with one’s peers. So, presumably, that experience led to your being elected to Council? PS: Yes, I’d also been appointed a Trustee of the Dancers Resettlement Fund, so I started to get a lot of experience of being on Boards. PM: Presumably, someone sounded you out about becoming President of the TMA? PS: Yes, it was Andrew Leigh who was the President at that time in 1991. I also discussed it with Rupert Rhymes on one of our train journeys from Bath, where he also lived.
PHOTOGRAPH: HUGO GLENDINNING
STEFANO ROSATO, JONATHAN GODDARD AND KIRILL BURLOV IN THE COMEDY OF CHANGE: RAMBERT DANCE COMPANY
PM: Were you deliberately trying to break the ‘glass ceiling’? PS: No, I’m not a very good feminist! I didn’t think about being the first woman President. I would like to say I was breaking the mould but – perhaps I’ve been lucky – I’ve found less discrimination in the arts than in other areas. I am not denying that there has been discrimination against women but I’ve not experienced it directly. PM: You served for one year and then you were invited to join the Arts Council. Was that why you didn’t stand for another term? PS: Yes and Rupert was cross with me! But I felt it was a wonderful opportunity as I would be chairing the Dance Panel and felt I could really have influence. I couldn’t do both as there would have been a conflict of interests. I didn’t feel I was letting the TMA down as there were plenty of other people who could take it on. PM: I’m sure the dance world thought it was definitely the right decision! PS: I did have an extraordinary time at the Arts Council as I subsequently took on the chair of the Lottery Panel just as applications were flooding in. But then in 1997, the rules were changed, income was
reduced and management of the lottery funds became really difficult. It was challenging but also fascinating. PM: Looking back over your career, you’d been part of the creative process as at Rambert but then you played a significant role in the mysterious art of subsidy. Can you do the latter without having done the former? PS: It does help enormously to have had experience on the creative side because it gives you a broader understanding of how people work. In the nineties, there were a lot of people on the Arts Council – Gavin Henderson, Thelma Holt, Deborah MacMillan for instance – who were very `hands-on’ and understood the process of creating art. I think there is a problem in some areas today where you have to persuade elements within the Arts Council that artistic quality should be the prime criterion. I believe that if someone has a brilliant artistic idea they should be able to get funding quickly. PM: And you’re still bringing your knowledge of the dance world to various organisations including the Nureyev Foundation?
PM: You have had a fascinating and very successful career in the arts all the way from those portakabins in Waterloo to the heady delights of the Arts Council and beyond. Is there one aspect of which you’re particularly proud? PS: It would have to be Rambert and taking on the chair in 2000. It was a turning point in its history as there were financial problems and Christopher Bruce wanted to move on. Being involved in the appointments of Sue Wyatt (and then Nadia Stern) as Executive Director and Mark Baldwin as Artistic Director and working with them to turn the company around was a wonderful experience. Although I don’t take any credit for the artistic input, it was very exciting when Rambert won the Olivier Award for Outstanding Achievement in Dance, for the second time, earlier this year. PM: Prue, I have no doubt that you would have made a great actress but it was just as well you didn’t pursue that or the dance world would have lost one of its greatest champions! Thank you very much.
I PETER MORRIS PS: Yes, the Foundation is setting up a permanent Lieu de Memoire to commemorate Nureyev’s contribution to ballet.
PETER MORRIS WAS A MEMBER OF THE SOLT/TMA STAFF FROM 1989 TO 2008.
PHOTOGRAPH: ERIC RICHMOND
MALGORZATA DZIERZON IN AWAKENINGS: RAMBERT DANCE COMPANY: CHOREOGRAPHY BY ALETTA COLLINS
New Directions: Career Development for Dancers Jeanette Siddall Dancers are slightly different from other performing artists. Long before they reach, the soon-to-beabolished, state retirement age they will no longer be earning their living by performing. There is not a particular age at which it will happen, but for most it will occur before they reach their 40s or earlier due to injury, which leaves them with the prospect of, at least, another 20 years of active, productive life. They will probably have started dancing from an early age, and may have 30 years of dance experience and knowledge, but finding a new role for this expertise can be a challenge. The symposium, New Directions, held in May 2010 was chaired by Sir John Tusa and hosted by The Clore Leadership Programme, Dancers’ Career Development and the Paul Hamlyn Foundation. They all have extensive experience of helping dancers meet the challenge of changing direction. Dancers’ Career Development (DCD) was founded in 1974, supported by Equity and the Arts Council, and the (then five) larger Arts Council funded dance companies to provide retraining for their dancers. The UK was the first country in the world to initiate a programme to support dancers’ transition. Other countries have followed our lead and more companies have joined DCD since its beginnings, while its remit has expanded. Dancers are supported to train, gain a degree or start a new business. Emotional and psychological support and career counselling is also available to all dancers. The Clore Leadership Programme, in partnership with DCD, has been offering Dance Fellowships since 2005/06. Dancers have been successful in gaining other Clore Fellowships, but offering the Dance Fellowship has raised the profile of the opportunity and attracted an increasing number of applications.
The symposium marked the close of the Paul Hamlyn Foundation’s Jane Attenborough Dance in Education (JADE) Fellowship and celebrated its achievements. JADE was set up in 2005 to commemorate the life of Jane Attenborough, a former administrator for the Royal Academy of Dance, marketing officer with Rambert Dance, Founding Director of Dance UK and PHF Arts Programme Manager, who died, tragically, in the 2004 Asian Tsunami. A JADE Fellowship has been offered every year since then to provide experience in project management skills and education over a two-year period. The symposium was intriguing, fascinating and, above all, life affirming. In turbulent times, occasions that highlight individual intelligence, tenacity and creativity are to be truly relished. Many dancers present had received support or advice from DCD, the Clore Leadership Programme or the Paul Hamlyn Foundation. Most of the speakers were dancers who had gone on to achieve leadership positions in dance – a growing phenomenon in recent years. Three members of the opening panel had also experience of The Place, which is celebrating its 40th birthday this year. Their different stories illustrated the wealth of new directions that dancers have taken. 27
PHOTOGRAPH: PARI NADERI
“…dancers today are so much more engaged and involved beyond executing steps.”
a student at The Place when one of her choreographies was taken into the repertoire of London Contemporary Dance Theatre; making her a choreographer when she really wanted to be a dancer. SIOBHAN DAVIES DANCE JADE PROJECT: WORK CREATIVES SESSION
Siobhan Davies trained at The Place, then quickly joined London Contemporary Dance Theatre as a dancer and choreographer. She won a Fulbright Arts Fellowship in 1987, founded the Siobhan Davies Dance Company in 1988, was named one of six Creative Britons in 2000 and opened the RIBA award-winning Siobhan Davies Studios in 2006 to provide a base and workspace for her company, other independent dance artists, as well as a programming space for interdisciplinary seminars, participatory projects and exhibitions. On top of all that she has won numerous awards, was awarded a CBE in 2002 and, perhaps less visibly, has pioneered new ways of working with dancers. She challenged the symposium to recognise the intelligence of dancers and value dancers’ knowledge, highlighting the prevalence of choreography all around us, in architecture and in other art forms. Referring to the JADE Fellowships, she pointed out the importance of dancers having time to reflect on what they have learned through their dancing careers and articulating the knowledge and skills they have accumulated, and gave examples of dancers going on to ‘make film, photography and wine’. Aletta Collins is an associate artist with the Royal Opera House. She has choreographed and directed for dance and theatre companies, films, orchestras, operas, musicals and for over 2,000 people dancing the finale of Big Dance 2008 in Trafalgar Square in London. Her early success was fast, international and interdisciplinary. She was bright and funny as she told how she had made her first career transition as 28
Speaking to her later, Aletta talked about translating experiences between contexts, contrasting the way that actors need to discuss to develop intellectual understanding of the work while dancers need to do it in order to develop physical understanding. So, relationships matter in choreography as knowledge is transferred through people working closely together, having the courage to create in an exposed environment and using their physicality and emotions to communicate. Aletta described the generosity of some of the people who had helped her career; Robert Cohan and Robin Howard buying her student work; John Ashford getting her to represent Britain at the prestigious Bagnolet competition in France and being awarded the prize by Merce Cunningham still evokes a sense of awe. Aletta is now keenly aware of all the skills she has gained from dance and feels she has matured as an artist since working out how to join up her different skills and experiences and to transfer expertise and learning between different situations. She values unfamiliar situations as offering a way of knowing what you do know, and is committed to a creative process that involves the dancers as people, aiming for being ‘many in body and one in mind’. Kenneth Tharp also studied at The Place, danced with London Contemporary Dance Theatre for 13 years, then with Arc Dance Company, was lead artist and artistic advisor for The Royal Ballet School’s Dance Partnership and Access Programme and dancer in residence at Queen’s College, Cambridge. He gained a NESTA funded Clore Fellowship and is now Chief Executive of The Place. He was open about the impact of ceasing to perform, being ‘away from the front
PHOTOGRAPH: ERIC RICHMOND
JONATHAN GODDARD AND ANGELA TOWLER IN AWAKENINGS: RAMBERT DANCE COMPANY: CHOREOGRAPHY BY ALETTA COLLINS
line’ and the difficulty of explaining a portfolio career in response to the question ‘What do you do?’ He described a range of skills learned in the studio that for him were transferable to other contexts, and highlighted some of the key understandings he had gained from the Clore Fellowship such as the importance of authenticity and confidence, both of which had resonated with his experience as a dancer. Later, he talked about transferable skills being only part of the issue. He had found it important to think about his whole self and identity. Learning to feel comfortable in a new role can be challenging, and for Kenneth shadowing people had illuminated both the activities involved in different roles and the range of behaviours they required. It should hardly be surprising that dancers are particularly adept at learning through observation, and Kenneth highlighted other skills that are often highly developed in dance, such as knowing where to focus attention in a room, and using and reading body language. While he was sympathetic to the challenge of no longer doing something you have grown up with and that is an integral part of who you are, he was impressed by the way in which dancers today are so much more engaged and involved beyond executing steps. He is optimistic that the trend for dancers to move into leadership positions in and beyond dance will continue and grow.
group of creative entrepreneurs; there were many more speakers and delegates than could be covered by this article. It also showed the value of investing in individuals, demonstrating that its impact ripples far beyond and can change the culture of the arts. Sue Hoyle, Director of the Clore Leadership Programme and formerly Executive Director of The Place, knows this to be true. She has extensive experience on which to base her confidence and the growing international interest in the Clore Leadership Programme is testimony to the pioneering achievements within the UK. Sue Hoyle commented that, ‘By supporting the development of leaders and connecting them to one another, we aim to encourage artistic and strategic collaboration between what, at one time, were great divides between different art forms, institutions and professional hierarchies.’ Much has changed since the New Directions symposium took place in May, and future prospects are gloomy. In such a context, the courage of creative individuals is heartening and inspires hope.
I JEANETTE SIDDALL JEANETTE SIDDALL IS A FREELANCE CONSULTANT AND ADVISOR. HER CAREER IN DANCE SPANS PERFORMING, CHOREOGRAPHY, TEACHING,
In many ways, the symposium was a celebration. Perhaps unintentionally, it showcased the achievements of an impressive
DANCE DEVELOPMENT AND FUNDING. SHE WAS FORMERLY DIRECTOR OF DANCE UK AND DANCE DIRECTOR OF ARTS COUNCIL ENGLAND
THE THEATRE COLLECTION – ONE OF THE BEST KEPT SECRETS Carole Woddis
PHOTOGRAPH: JULIAN ABRAMS
Deep in West Kensington, just behind Olympia stands an inauspicious but intimidating building. Formerly the old Post Office Savings Bank, this is Blythe House, home at one time to 7,000 clerks, but now shared by the Science Museum, the British Museum, and the Victoria & Albert Museum. A dark brooding space filled floor
Enter its portals and you’re overwhelmed by its sheer scale and the artefacts housed along its echoing corridors. In it are stored the printed material, designs and costumes that document the history of theatre in Britain. A veritable treasure trove of posters, programmes, photographs, letters and memorabilia line its walls, packed away in row upon row of neatly filed boxes whilst in one cavernous room, shrouded in protective sheets, like so many bulky sentinels, stand tiers of priceless costumes.
to ceiling with amongst other hidden gems a Medical Collection (in association with the Wellcome Foundation), it also houses another of the country’s best kept secrets, the Theatre Collection for Theatre and the Performing Arts.
Here, you’ll find the green velvet, fur trimmed doublet worn by Laurence Olivier as Richard III at the New Theatre in 1944 and Ian Richardson’s glittery silver outfit worn when playing Vindice in Trevor Nunn and Christopher Morley’s legendary 1966 RSC black and silver production of The Revenger’s Tragedy. Rummage around and you’ll find a legion of theatrical mementoes – the whole back catalogue of photographs donated by the late theatre photographer
Douglas Jeffrey, a set design by Peter Snow for Peter Hall’s original 1955 production of Waiting for Godot at the Arts Theatre to name but two. You will also find one of the finest collections of Ballets Russes costumes in the world. So maintains Jane Pritchard, the V&A’s Dance Curator, who has spent the best part of the last three years preparing a new exhibition. Diaghilev and the Golden Age of the Ballets Russes 1909-1929 opens on 25 September and runs until January 2011. The titan of 20th century modernism, Serge Diaghilev’s influence was and continues to be immense. As the great innovator who helped change the face of dance theatre and, thereby, other performing art forms this is, surprisingly, the first time the V&A have mounted an exhibition of his work. With over 300 items on show – including original costumes and set designs, Picasso’s front cloth, Le Train Bleu, props and posters by Leon Bakst, Georges Braque, Jean Cocteau and Natalia Goncharova – unusually, according to Pritchard, up to 70 per cent of the exhibition is based around the Theatre Collection’s own holdings. `I feel very strongly that if we’ve got this
PHOTOGRAPH BY SASHA. © V&A IMAGES
LEON WOIZIKOVSKY, LYDIA SOKOLOVA, BRONISLAVA NIJINKSA AND ANTON DOLIN IN LE TRAIN BLEU PHOTOGRAPHED ON THE SET OF BABA YAGA AT THE LONDON COLISEUM, DECEMBER 1924
wonderful material we have a duty to put it on display to people in Britain and visitors to Britain and hopefully part of the exhibition will certainly tour.’ Such a refreshing attitude dispels any lingering criticism that might still be associated with the controversial closure of the old Theatre Museum in Covent Garden in January 2007. Understandably dire predictions were made. Sir Donald Sinden who had been instrumental in the campaign in the Seventies to set up the museum had said, `The fight we had to get it up and running in the first place was quite incredible. If it were to move back to the V&A, I don’t think we’d ever get premises again. It is essential that we have a theatre museum in England, in London, where we have the best theatre in the world.’ It is a sentiment shared by many, including Pritchard, and was certainly the driving
impulse behind the visionary, Gabrielle Enthoven, who felt not enough was being done to document the history of British Theatre. It was her campaign in 1911 to create a `National Museum of Theatre Arts’ that first set the ball rolling, later augmented by amalgamations with the British Theatre Museum Association and Friends of the Museum of the Performing Arts. The Theatre Museum became a separate entity in 1974 with The Ballets Russes collection forming a substantial part of it, thanks, amongst others, to the vision of dance critic Richard Buckle who organised a series of `celebrity auctions’ in the Sixties and early Seventies to guarantee their survival. Pritchard, whilst regretting the loss of the Theatre Museum’s individual identity makes a strong case for what has happened since its move to the V&A and Blythe House.
`In terms of the actual permanent exhibition space there was at Covent Garden it’s probably larger [in the V&A] and it’s also quite dynamic as a space which is also good. One of the really useful things is that since we’ve had access to Blythe House a lot of things that had been scattered are now in one place. It is also, in many ways, a great advantage for researchers because in the past when they went to the Study Room at Covent Garden they could immediately access the things that were on site. But if you suddenly asked for something, you could be told, “Oh we’ve got to get it from Blythe” or from some other store.’ To return to the Diaghilev exhibition, why now I wonder? According to Pritchard, 1909-1911 were the formative years for the Ballets Russes `so any point during that time is perfectly valid to mount an exhibition.’ 31
SEPT 2010 PHOTOGRAPH: V&A IMAGES
ILLUSTRATION OF VASLAV NIJINSKY IN L’APRÈS-MIDI D’UN FAUNE BY LÉON BAKST FOR THE COVER OF THE PROGRAMME FOR THE THÉÂTRE DU CHÂTELET, PARIS, 1912
The Diaghilev era remains a totem for change. `One of the things about Diaghilev,’ Pritchard explains, `is that he was using dance as a medium. Left to his own devices he would have used opera. But in the early 20th century there had been a period of reformation of opera with Wagner and the new Russian operas using Fine Artists to design them. He was using a model of what had happened in opera for dance.’ Diaghilev, she maintains, revitalised dance at a time `when it was fairly moribund. In doing that he created a template that would have an influence right the way through the theatrical profession.’ You can see that carried through, even to today, claims Pritchard. `People often look back when they’re thinking about using Fine Artists and they tend to look back to Diaghilev. He is not the first person to have used Fine Artists but his name is almost 32
always invoked at times like that. I think that the music he commissioned, too, cannot be undervalued. Over 200 different versions of The Rite of Spring have been done, most of those in the last 50 years.’ It is in his choice of collaborators and his ability to surprise people that Pritchard thinks he left his abiding legacy. `It is hard to say that, “yes, this is the influence of Diaghilev”, but I think many theatre practitioners, just as many artists, discover Diaghilev at some point in their lives and use him as a sort of role model – someone to aspire to, the ideas that he had and certainly the quality of the productions he put on.’ I ponder, with Pritchard, whether the Diaghilev phenomenon could be replicated today – various showmen and women spring to mind. But Pritchard cites the
impossibility of recreating his crippling international tours in the present funding climate and also notes, significantly, how difficult it would be to find `somebody who would literally be both artistic and administrative director at the same time as controlling absolutely everything.’ And Diaghilev did control everything. `I think he’s fascinating because he was always on the lookout for the latest talent. I don’t think he was such an avant garde person as is often made out. But I think he used the avant garde for his own aims. So, when he was looking at Stravinsky, the composer already had a reasonably good career in Russia. But by involving him in Firebird, Stravinsky burst onto the international scene and became a real force. With artists like Picasso and Derain they were already quite well established but he could see the advantage of using them.’
“I feel very strongly that if we’ve got this wonderful material we have a duty to put it on display to people in Britain and visitors to Britain…” PHOTOGRAPH BY LIPNITSKY. © V&A IMAGES
ODE (SCENE III) SHOWING IRA BELIANINA AS NATURE AND SERGE LIFAR AS THE STUDENT WITH THE WOMEN OF THE CORPS DE BALLET IN THEIR CRINOLINE DRESSES
Matisse, another design collaborator, is an interesting case, says Pritchard, because Matisse was very reluctant to work with Diaghilev. `He had the ability to charm anyone to do what he wanted. People had to hide from him because they knew if they were face to face or speaking to him they’d just give way.’ That certainly does bring one or two latter day directors and producers to mind! As to what the exhibition contains, Pritchard and her co-curator, Geoffrey Marsh have tried to find fresh ways to mount the exhibition in line with modern trends. It may not be as push button interactive as some but there is a Firebird moment when the public will be encouraged to become their own Firebird. Given the importance of music in the Ballets Russes story, composer Howard Goodall was commissioned and has
created a video music narrative to run at interludes throughout. And then of course, there are the 17 fabulous Ballet Russes costumes – stunning in their own right.
which is not where you’d most obviously expect it. There is that sense of being integrated into a bigger whole which I think is quite exciting.’
I ask Pritchard if given the wealth of archive material now being held by the Theatre and Performing Arts Collection we might actually see a theatre retrospective, say about the development of the Fringe or the growth of the Royal Court (they hold the entire Royal Court archive).
Pritchard reminds me once again of the facilities already within the V&A’s Theatre and Performing Arts Gallery which in September will be opening an exhibition on Gordon Craig.
Pritchard demurs, `I think it would be quite difficult to see something as specific as that at this point in time. I think there’s more likely to be thematic exhibitions coming through. One of the things that is quite arresting is that there are very few major exhibitions happening in the V&A that don’t have some theatrical material in them. Even quilts managed to have something,
The Gallery is open every day the V&A Museum is open and every weekday at 2pm there are tours led by V&A staff to give a ‘taster’, as Pritchard puts it, of the range of things that are there. People can, of course, go and enjoy it at any time and walk through its various showcases arranged in sections to show the process of theatre: where ideas come from, putting productions together, producing and the 33
SEPT 2010 PHOTOGRAPH: DACS
money side, publicity material, set designs and ending with the V&A’s growing video collection of chosen theatrical performances. To my shame, I’d never been through the theatre gallery. Arranged generically, you can’t help but be struck by its eclecticism. So in giving a taste of the costumes held, Pop culture, in the shape of Mick Jagger’s svelte spangly jumpsuit, sits happily beside the regal outfits worn at some time by Dame Judi Dench and Dame Maggie Smith. Acutely conscious of their responsibilities to make the collection as widely available as possible, Pritchard explains, `If people are working on productions and they need access to material we will certainly do our best to arrange it. We do feel very strongly that we are here to serve people working in the industry.’ 34
FRENCH POSTER ADVERTISING THE BALLETS RUSSES IN LE SPECTRE DE LA ROSE FEATURING NIJINSKY BY JEAN COCTEAU: THEATRE DES CHAMPS-ELYSEES, 1911
The best and first port of call is to make contact with General Enquiries (all details are available on the museum’s website www.vam.ac.uk) and book an appointment. Blythe House also contains (as did Covent Garden) a Reading Room for academics and journalists. `We would always advise people preferably to book a month in advance though we do have one seat reserved every day for journalists. Again it needs to be booked but we do what we can to speed up the process. It is never going to be an ideal world, but I do think our research facilities are improving.’ Much more material, she adds, is now accessible online and is in the process of being digitally catalogued.
Blythe House is undoubtedly a daunting place on first arrival. I was reminded of trying to get into Fort Knox when I went earlier this year. Pritchard agrees, `It is a terrifying building but we always say once you reach the end of the corridor and get to the Reading Room there’ll be a friendly face to welcome you.’ I would recommend the trek to anyone. There is nothing like just being there and soaking up the atmosphere. Suddenly the history of theatre, the performances and the artists, the whole creativity of it, hits you like a thunderbolt because there it is, on paper, in photo and design or expressed in brilliant costumes. If you’ve got a specific research project so much the better.
PHOTOGRAPH: DACS PHOTOGRAPH: V&A IMAGES
COSTUME FOR CHINESE CONJURER IN PARADE BY PABLO PICASSO 1917
“…Mick Jagger’s svelte spangly jumpsuit, sits happily beside the regal outfits worn at some time by Dame Judi Dench and Dame Maggie Smith.” `People are amazed at the space,’ says Pritchard, `how much material there is. I think the thing is if you’re passionate about any area of theatre and suddenly someone produces a letter by somebody, a first night programme, it does give you a buzz.’
over-stocked with West End programmes. But if you happen to have an old pre-war programme from a regional rep performance sitting in the attic, that’s a different story. You and they will be welcomed with open arms.
I CAROLE WODDIS The attitude from Pritchard and her team is clearly to be as helpful as possible to anybody wishing to come and do research. They are doing their best to make things as accessible as possible in as many different ways as possible.
CAROLE WODDIS IS A FREELANCE THEATRE JOURNALIST AND WRITER WHOSE BOOKS INCLUDE A COLLECTION OF INTERVIEWS WITH ACTRESSES, SHEER BLOODY MAGIC, TWO EDITIONS OF THE BLOOMSBURY THEATRE GUIDE AND CO-AUTHOR
COSTUME FOR ‘PRINCE’S MOTHER’ IN SWAN LAKE, DESIGNED BY ALEXANDRE GOLOVINE, MOSCOW 1901
Finally, we talk of the future. Like its visionary instigator, The Collection relies for growth on generosity. The department carries only a tiny purchase grant so gifts and bequests are always gratefully received though a certain selectivity has to take place. Pritchard points out that they are
OF FABER’S POCKET GUIDE TO 20TH CENTURY DRAMA. FOR TEN YEARS SHE WAS A VISITING TUTOR IN JOURNALISM AT GOLDSMITHS AND FOR THREE YEARS WITH CITY UNIVERSITY. SHE CURRENTLY REVIEWS, WRITES OCCASIONAL FEATURES FOR THEARTSDESK.COM AND IS AN INTERVIEWER FOR THEATREVOICE.COM.
JACK PHIPPS WITH FRIENDS AT SNAPE MALTINGS
JACK PHIPPS 1926 – 2010 Jack Phipps, the former director of Arts Council Touring, who passed away peacefully on August 6, was one of a kind.
(subsequently English Touring Opera), and the move of Sadler’s Wells Royal Ballet to become Birmingham Royal Ballet.
Jack started in classical music, working for Harold Holt Ltd and the Bath Festival and was involved in setting up the City of London Festival. In 1965 he and his wife Sue established their own artists’ management, mainly looking after conductors and singers, including Peter Pears and Benjamin Britten.
In 1981 Jack left the Arts Council to run the Aldeburgh Festival, but he returned in 1986 and stayed until his retirement at the beginning of 1992. Under Jack’s leadership Arts Council Touring became a dynamic force across the performing arts, supporting much small-scale and experimental work as well as big projects, and investing in marketing and audience development long before they became widely practiced.
In 1970 he took on DALTA, the national touring scheme which sent the principal theatre, dance and opera companies round the country. DALTA turned into the Touring department of the Arts Council of Great Britain. In 1977 I found myself going to work for Jack when English Music Theatre, a company he had originally championed, lost its grant and I lost my job. Quite honestly I wasn’t looking forward to joining the Arts Council and worried about lasting a year, but Jack made it so exciting that I stayed for 13. The word most people have always used about Jack is “maverick” and certainly he could be exasperating and infuriating, but his enthusiasm and determination were inspirational. He was a rule bender, someone who wasn’t afraid to take risks and most, if not all, of them came off. Jack got things done. In the late 1970s the number one circuits operated by Moss Empires and Howard & Wyndham started to break up and Jack was instrumental in securing the future of these venues, working collaboratively with many local authorities. He persuaded the Arts Council to work with commercial producers to get first class work into these theatres and secured support for touring musicals produced by a young Cameron Mackintosh. He played a key role in the establishment of English National Opera North (subsequently Opera North), the Royal Shakespeare Company’s annual season in Newcastle-upon-Tyne and its regional tour taking Shakespeare into leisure centres in towns without theatres, Opera 80 36
Jack had a passion for the regions and a knack for spotting talent amongst managers and artists, and championed a number of them who went on to high profile careers. As a manager he was supportive, if unorthodox. He was unusually widely respected, even by people with whom he disagreed or fought. Jack was a driving force behind the formation of the Touring Partnership and in retirement became its first Chair. During his retirement he indulged his passion for opera by mounting a number of modest but notable productions in his local church in Suffolk. Our thoughts are with his wife Sue, his daughter Polly and sons Simon and Martin. The regional landscape for venues, companies and audiences would look very different if it hadn’t been for Jack – what a wonderful legacy he left.
I JODI MYERS
PHOTOGRAPH: CHARLIE HOPKINSON
JAMES (JIM) PARKER 1936 – 2010 Jim Parker was a veteran publicity man with a deep passion for “live entertainment”; it was in his blood. Born in Blackpool in 1936, as a small boy, he visited the Palace Varieties religiously each week. His father and grandfather were both past directors of the Blackpool Tower Company before the EMI takeover in the 1960’s. Throughout the 1960’s he worked for: the Queens Theatre Blackpool and the Palace Theatre, Manchester. He then toured with Billy Smarts Circus as a Party Organiser and then with Tom Arnold and Bernard Delfont pantomimes as an “advance publicity manager”. During the 1970’s, he turned his hand to running Television Sales Force campaigns for Southern Television and London Weekend Television and was associated with several national product launches such as Seagram’s Crocadillo. As a “self-styled” public relations counsellor – a fancy name for the guy who goes about town ahead of the show – Jim has worked for many major presenters and theatres all over the country on pantomimes, ice shows, summer seasons, tours and many West End productions. At the start of the 1980’s he set up what is known now as James Parker Associates, a promotions company specifically dedicated to Theatre Entertainment or as Jim called it “Live Entertainment” and “Tourist and Visitor Destinations”. Jim Parker, by his own admission, a survivor; a man so dedicated to the world of show business since his first job in 1957, has been working within this industry for over 50 years. During his career he has promoted many West End shows, Pantomimes and tourist destinations such as: Holiday on Ice, Wimbledon Theatre, Chessington World of Adventures, The Globe Theatre, The National, The Old Vic, Cirque de Soleil and many, many more.
“Entertainment 81”, summed up Jim’s many job titles over the decades: in the 50’s he was known as an Exploitation Manager, in the 60’s an Advance Man and the 70’s Publicity and Promotions Manager. Despite the fact that Jim knew as the years went on that the entertainment industry was changing so much, he offered what they didn’t: old fashioned traditional theatre promotion, using the tricks, travel and ticketing contacts gained over many years, and he still won jobs, including work for leading National marketing/PR Agencies. He was about to start a promotion for the current West End production STOMP, the print and marketing materials were due to be delivered from the shows marketing agency the week before he died. Well known to very many in all branches of the entertainment business and described by one leading UK PR Guru on learning of his passing as “the last of the Leathermen”. Jim lost his battle with kidney and lung cancer on 15th July 2010 at the age of 74 years. He leaves behind a devoted wife Sylvia Kim Parker and one daughter Emma. His humour and wonderful unique disposition will be greatly missed.
I EMMA PARKER
Roger Edward writes: I met Jim at “Entertainment 81”. Although I never used his professional services he always kept in touch, right up to three weeks before his death. Always fully committed to what he called Live Entertainment, we would compare notes and Jim always reminded me that while marketing technology and job titles marched on very many of the old truths of selling tickets still remained valid. It is pleasing to note that major West End producers through their sales agencies recognised this and continued to use “the advance man” Jim Parker, the last of the breed. I shall miss our gossipy chats. 37
FROM ACTING TO INTERACTING
Dead Earnest’s workshop programme with the staff at Sheffield Theatres Tom Hocking THE WORLD-FAMOUS CRUCIBLE THEATRE, OPERATED BY SHEFFIELD THEATRES, RE-OPENED IN MARCH THIS YEAR AFTER A £15.3 MILLION REFURBISHMENT. OVER 22,000 PEOPLE CAME TO SEE THE THEATRE’S FIRST THREE PRODUCTIONS AND A FURTHER 40,000 CAME TO THE WORLD SNOOKER CHAMPIONSHIP IN APRIL AND MAY. In January, Sheffield Theatres embarked on an ambitious programme of staff development, with customer care at its heart. They reasoned that although it’s front-ofhouse staff that make the allimportant first impression on the public, what happens behind the scenes is as important; actors and guest companies form their views of the venue as much through the attitude of finance, production and technical staff as from audience and critic reaction to the shows. Sheffield Theatres commissioned Sheffield-based applied theatre experts Dead Earnest to produce a series of workshops for all their staff, including the senior management team, 38
production and technical teams, and casual staff. Dead Earnest, previously a touring group formed in 1993, now create bespoke projects for their clients, with the aim of facilitating learning through interaction. Working with the Commercial Director, Roxy Daniells and Consultant Learning Director, Elizabeth Underwood, Dead Earnest designed a programme of four workshops, which took place over a two-day period. Scenarios were scripted to be relevant to different staff groups. The starting point was Sheffield Theatres’ new corporate values: bold, passionate and enriching. The aim of the scenarios was to help employees understand how every interaction with
a member of the audience contributes to the ethos of the company. Each workshop was followed up with an interactive workshop facilitated by Dead Earnest. Participants suggested the themes for discussion, with people free to move between discussion groups. Suggestions about how to improve ways of working are now the blue-print for continuous improvement. A small group of staff, some with many years experience at Sheffield Theatres and others in their first month of employment, were invited to a pilot session. Adjustments were made to the scenarios and the organisation of the sessions, based on their feedback. ‘Dead Earnest understood our brief straight away,’ comments Elizabeth Underwood. ‘They were sensitive to the fact that many of our staff had reservations about applied theatre, worrying that they would be asked to do things in front of colleagues they would find embarrassing.’
Early indications suggest the programme has had an impact. ‘Teams have certainly benefitted from seeing what good customer service looks like,’ observes Commercial Director, Roxy Daniells. ‘They are working hard to respond to customers as individuals and starting to move away from the “one size fits all”, rules-driven approach which characterises so many organisations.’ For Dead Earnest, the project offered a welcome return to their theatrical roots, as Artistic Director Ashley Barnes explains: ‘This was a great project for us. We’ve had a long-standing relationship with Sheffield Theatres because of our performance work but this was the first time we’ve had the chance to really help them as an applied theatre company.’ Sheffield will be hosting the TMA Frontline Conference this autumn.
I TOM HOCKING For information on the work of Dead Earnest, Applied Theatre Specialists visit: www.deadearnest.co.uk
Published on Sep 29, 2010