Back to School – but first a week of new experiences

eleanor turnerAll over the papers, shops and even the Archers it’s that time when many of us prepare to go back to school. For me it’s going back after a 3 year gap to lead a new MA in Creative Producing at Mountview. From September 14th my focus will be on the experience my guest professional practitioners and I can generate for a crack cohort of emerging producers.   A week more of checking the paperwork, sorting guest slots, and maybe even reading a bit of learned texts – and then its down to Wood Green to find our new MA Hub.

(Jen Toksvig has beaten me to it with her new MA for Musical Theatre Writers starting in the Hub today – may your words and music fly high.)

Last week gave me a glorious reminder of why we create live theatre experiences, and how amazing it can be to be in an audience when magic happens.   As producers we are the facilitators and variously the champions and challengers of the other creatives on the journey. When it works it is fabulous.

When it feels, in your gut, that something is going wrong then it is the role of the producer to believe it can be better, and help make that happen. The course will, I hope, allow us all to learn more of how to go with our gut to make greater art.

This week we were at the Almeida’s unbelievably breathtaking Oresteia at Trafalgar Studios. Even better we had booked a seat in the back row a bit late, and then the lovely front of house team moved us down to fill some unexpectedly empty best seats. Its 3hrs 40 minutes with 2 breaks – and the show was so powerful that we never even left our seats. We could not reenter the real world until the end. For the characters – it did not end well.   I was reminded of the roller coaster of seeing the 6hr Nicholas Nickleby by the RSC back in the 80s. If there are any seats left – grab a ticket.

Then on Wednesday we were supporting a friend, harpist Eleanor Turner, as she brought her new ensemble show Wild Birds to London. She was playing at the Forge in Camden.   A wonderful new venue to discover – a lovely concert hall space with bar and Cuban food. A great mixed programme of classical and multi cultural music, plus spoken word and some stand-up. Can’t wait to go back.

When I go to support a friend in the audience, I always hope to have a good time, and to enjoy cheering them on in their journey. I don’t very often expect to be thrilled way way beyond expectations and realise that I have seen something in my top 10 experiences of an artform. That’s what I had in the Forge last week. I can’t share the concert with you, but I can point you to a recording of one of the works which received its UK premiere this time.

Do check Eleanor and her ensemble out. And my lesson to myself, shared here as always, is jump at chances to see and hear the unexpected.   Thursday was another delight, and unexpected. Friends of my daughter had devised a concert of operatic arias and bloody chunks with a shift of language and casting to relook at some of the classic love songs in a less heterosexual world. Enter Michael with his tiny frozen hand, a little transposition of the arias from soprano to tenor, and we had Don Giovanni, Marriage of Figaro, and of course La Boheme.   The Operesque event was in support of Stonewall in a New Cross pub called the Amersham Arms – another good space to know about for performances.

My week rounded off with a village Barn Dance where we won the raffle, and then the monthly Authentic Artist asylum where 6 artists spent the afternoon exploring their creative juices, new pieces of work, the freedom which comes from not requiring perfection, and how to develop theatre games for 7 year olds.   I have written much about the Asylums and the power of a safe space to share your creative fragility. One participant summed up her experience “I am meeting myself as an artist. And it is the first time I’m not afraid to look, to breathe, be still in the moment. It’s completely not comfortable and that’s OK.”

I hope we will create, with the new cohort of producers at Mountview, many safe spaces where artists can be themselves. I can’t wait to share the journey with them.  Time to pack my satchel.




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