Just Say “Yes”…

It’s been a while since my last blog, and as I settled on the train back to Suffolk last night I wanted to share the amazingness of our creative landscape – and what happens when you say “yes” and keep your eyes open to seeing amazingly varied stuff.  This week I have been at the High Tide Festival running some surgeries, one of which turned into a full-on exploration into the creation of a new academic arts research institute – more anon I hope.  I had time in my one day there to catch a single play in this amazing dramatic celebration of new writing. The Big Meal by Dan Lefranc, directed by Michael Boyd, gave a phenomenal cast the opportunity themselves, and their children and even their own grandchildren across an 80 year celebration of an ordinary family.  Sponsored by the brilliant arts headhunter Heather Newill of AEM International, it was good to meet new friends in a foyer whilst observing Michael Billington in one corner and David Hare in another.  I had mentioned to one of my MA cohort from Anglia Ruskin that if he wanted to research new playwriting, and meet anyone who was anyone in the development of new British drama, then a day in Halesworth was really all he needed. I last saw him in detailed discussion with the dramaturgue of the Bush after he’d hooked up for a lunch appointment with a major UK commercial theatre producer.  My MA colleague said “yes” to my suggestion, and in turn everyone he met said “yes” to his enquiries.

The start of the week was most definitely strapped to the laptop – getting targeted marketing out for our business leadership and personal impact course, the Art of Being Heard, which we run with DanceEast ; getting new dates sorted for my CGO Surgery programme; beginning work on connecting people for the planned UK season by the Japanese theatre company, Studio Life, in 2015; and preparing for a new programme I am starting in September [proper news on that very shortly…watch this blog/space]

Then I suddenly got a call from an old friend who has co-written Suggs’ one man show which has packed and wowed them in London and on national tour. They were arriving in Bury St Edmunds and wondered whether I’d like to see the show again, which I’d last seen at an early try-out at the King’s Head were we had chatted loads about the UK touring circuit and contract deals.   Now 100 performances on,  the show was a well deserved sell-out at The apex concert hall in Bury.  Great to see them and the show.    And we were back in Bury the following night for a celebration of the life and roles of Julie Andrews lovingly created by Sarah Louise Young and Michael Roulston. Again a show that I have seen and enjoyed before. It was great to see the welcome Bury gave these wicked and delightful performers – they are a great double act.  Feel excited that Sarah Louise is going to take two weeks out from the UK to join my colleagues in Malaysia and be part of the spring season in the Theatre Cabaret space in KL. She will follow in the footsteps of Nigel Richards and Abigail Anderson who have also taken bookings which include the chance to do masterclasses and drama classes with emerging theatre and musical theatre talent.  Its great what Dama Orchestra are making happen in the city – can’t wait to visit in December for a couple of days.  [Oh and those gigs came about because of a “yes”.  I was in Edinburgh, would I have coffee with two guys from KL, “yes”. Did I know any fab teachers and performers who might like to go to KL, “yes”.  I made three phone calls and each of Abi, Nigel and Sarah Louise said yes. And its happening. Yeeesss]

End of the week – time for three shows back to back. My son’s birthday and a chance to see him in a powerful drama for young audiences, The Minotaur by Kevin Dyer directed by Michael Fentiman, at Polka Theatre before it heads to Theatr Clwyd.  Great cast of really strong actors giving a completely hooked audience of adults and children, a masterclass in acting and Greek legend.  Then straight over to see the final performance of Father Nandru & The Wolves by Julian Garner presented by Wilton’s Music Hall and designed Hanne Horte-Garner.  Massive wolves, a fascinating true story of a church hidden by its parishioners in Romania, live gypsy band and a physical style of theatre creation which shows the experience Julian and Hanne have of working in massive open-air and community settings across Finland.  I was so delighted to find myself sitting next to my director of drama from my old school to whom I had once said “yes” to when at 14 I had been asked to be Production Secretary to the school play of Authur Kopit’s Indians […there’s a play the RSC should revive from their original commission…]. The role of PA was, as I now understand it, more like Company Manager. The cast size was 120 including a circus ring and a white stallion.  Julian played Buffalo Bill. Shortly after he asked whether I wanted to be Administrator of his theatre company, help to raise money, book a tour with two new plays he’d written.  Summer 1973 we took over a school for rehearsals. I was administrator and cook.  We survived the tour with a small surplus and no food poisoning.  I learned so much from Duncan Noel Paton, director of drama, and Julian Garner – what a delight to be seeing them both again 40 years later.

And my final treat of the week was to The Park Theatre see Engine House’s production of Bomber’s Moon by William Ivory, directed by Matt Aston. An amazingly powerful, heartfelt two hander with James Bolam as an aged ex Bomber Command tail-end-charlie and Steve John Shepherd as his carer.  Its general managed by The Production Exchange which I have joined as a Trustee and congratulations to Colin Blumenau, Adanna Adams, and all the creative team on a pin-drop-silent piece of theatre.   Tales of daring-do gave way to real revelations on the horror and fear of going to war.  I have never had the chance to sit with a relative who has gone through the war and really hear their stories – my step-father died before he would tell anything about being in Burma, the forgotten war, but he did talk a little about his Merchant Navy and Dunkirk experiences.  Our 90+ year old uncle who was also flying Bombers died without talking to us. And so this play gave me a chance to think into their heads through the amazing performance by James Bolam.

So – here are five questions for you…and the answers are “yes”

a)      Can you find a moment to get to The Park Theatre, Finsbury Park to see Bomber’s Moon playing until 11th May ?

b)       Can you find a moment to get to Polka or Theatr Clywd to see Minotaur playing until 24th May in Wimbledon and then North Wales until 20th June

c)       Can you take a moment to get on the mailing list of High Tide Festival for next year ?

d)      If genuinely “no” to a) or b), then can you get in touch with mates and colleagues to have the delights in your place ?

e)      Will you suggest to your local theatre, international festival, or theatre/event booker that cabaret artists like Nigel Richards and Sarah Louise Young may not be tv names, but they will completely capitivate your audiences

A busy and delightful week. Next week I already have Deep Diving Men at the Cockpit, Juggling at the Underbelly, Birdsong at the Theatre Royal Bury St Edmunds, and a Platform performance at the Bread & Roses pub in Clapham.  Maybe see you at one of these events. One day I will have time to check out some of the shows in the West End…I am afraid I spend most of my time on the Fringes…and love it.