Servants, Slaves and Showtunes

This week I started the 3rd Diploma in Creative Producing classes with our 6 UK/Australian producers and a wonderful array of Faculty meeting with them to inspire, encourage and support them.  David Glass, Alice McGrath, Tanya Agarwal, Marie McCarthy, Ellie Claughton, Julia Mucko, and Fin Ross Russell all offering guidance to these inspiring future theatremakers.

It is weird to be spending this week already setting interview dates for the 4th cohort who will start the course in April. I think we have now found a rhythm for the programme and now it is about seeing how we can ensure that the most diverse array of people from across the UK and across the world know about the course. I want anyone interested in producing to consider the different pathways into the business, one of which might be dedicating 2 solid days a week over 16 weeks to learning from an amazing array of Faculty talent – and from each other.

I spent half the week in London and half in Edinburgh. That is the joy of teaching this programme on Zoom. We had one diploma producer joining us from the Prague Fringe headquarters and another from the foyer of one of our most respected small scale regional producing houses where they were making a project pitch in the lunch hour to a panel of funders/producers. This is all possible with the joy of Zoom.

Between teaching I caught three shows – two in London and one in Glasgow. Two shows came with the same heritage – produced originally at the Tron. The third one massive production also produced by an adventurous Scot.  This little country of ours sure punches above its weight sometimes. 

First up was the joyful West End press night of Pride and Prejudice* (*sort of) created by Isobel McArthur, commissioned by Andy Arnold of the Tron, lovingly enriched by the Royal Lyceum Edinburgh with a tour to Birmingham Rep, Bristol Old Vic, Leeds Playhouse, Northern Stage in Newcastle and Oxford Playhouse, and then brought to the Criterion Theatre by David Pugh who, as a commercial producer, has a nose for a longrunning hit (think Art, Daniel Radcliffe in Equus, and Calender Girls on stage as just three examples). An excellent example of the co-producing and the grant aided and commercial producers working together.

Explore the wonderful 4* and 5* reviews in everything from the Guardian and Variety through to the The Daily Mail. Let’s hope it appeals to Austen lovers and contemporary Doc Marten girlpower koraoke lovers. To quote David Benedict in VarietyAdding karaoke to the 19th century’s blueprint rom-com may sound like a translation too far but the shocking truth of Isobel McArthur’s smart, riotously funny five-woman adaptation, now playing on the West End, is how faithful it is to Austen while being gloriously entertaining.” Can’t say better than that.  Do grab a ticket and enjoy.

From there to the wholly bigger endeavour produced and general managed by Glasgow’s own Neil Laidlaw.  He and his fellow producer Michael McCabe brought to the West End the  Stephen Schwartz/Philip Lazebnik (not forgetting the original bible uncredited bookwriters) musical of Moses Prince of Egypt.  It is massive credit to all the creative team under the direction of Stephen’s son, Scott Schwatrz, and a phenomenal company of musical theatre actors and dancers. The Dominion stalls (and I guess the rest of the house) was packed for the mid week show, and the energy emanating from the stage was high octane as you might expect on an opening night. All praise to Lauren Storer and Rachel Ireson as the Resident director and choreographer for keeping the company at gala-night pitch of passion.  That is not true at many shows I have seen after a long run.   Grab a ticket in the last 8 weeks of this run if you can.

And finally this week Kath and I headed to see Andy Arnold’s Tron production of The Tempest. Like P&P* (*sort of) it was an all female company and I hope Joyce Macmillan in the Scotsman will excuse me for just using her far more eloquent words to describe three phenomenal performances “the wonderful Nicole Cooper makes a commanding and lyrical Prospero, Itxaso Moreno a powerful and poignant Ariel, and Liz Kettle an astonishing Caliban, an ever more eloquent victim of island colonialism; in a brief 85-minute version of the play that offers a fascinating shift of perspective towards the characters who were there when Prospero arrived on the island, and who will still be there when all the men of wealth and power have long departed, taking their stories with them.” A week to go and it a timely reexamining of the text in the midst of COP26 when so many suits are in tow in Glasgow to discuss the fate of all island people including our own.

So a week of 3 important shows to catch, meeting up with 6 future producers embarking on their Diploma in Creative Producing, and I topped off the week by watching Doctor Stephen Langston’s fascinating and surprisingly accessible academic lecture on the power of the Golden Ratio to unpick the potential emotional success of a major musical. I hope he will be asked to give this lecture many times in the future.

Stephen is my boss when I teach at the University of the West of Scotland and an inspiring enthusiast for his BA students.  We are in a strange time in the world and this passion and positive support is so essential to young people as they try to understand how to navigate their way into the world.

Today I am getting information far and wide about the next Diploma in Creative Producing. Launching booking for a shared gathering between Producers’ Pool and Stage Directors (UK) on December 1st. And preparing for next week’s classes with the current DipCP3 cohort.  Seated at my laptop in my wee office overlooking the village square and the tide coming in. Thank you Zoom and LNER trains for making this freelance life possible.

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