I’m packing my bags for Darlington and the Jabberwocky Market this weekend, and then on to Scarborough for the National Student Drama Festival. Two new experiences for me. On Friday I have a “sold out” day of surgeries for emerging creatives in Darlington organized by the festival, and then on Monday I’m doing a workshop for the next generation of creative producers and theatremakers in Scarborough. In between I will watch some scratch nights and see some new shows by new companies. I love being surprised – and who knows what I will encounter.
Last week, and again today, I had the pleasure of meeting applicants for the Mountview MA in Creative Producing which will start in September. Each aspiring producer comes with a different personal ambition for their career and life, and it will be fascinating to see how they work together, and how they build relationships with the MA Theatre Directors led by Peter James. Together they will make work in Wood Green from September, and hopefully scheme amazing dreams to inspire us in the future.
Very occasionally I see a piece of theatre which I know will stay with me for years, and will be influential in my work and probably that of others who have seen it. I have a particular single piece of theatre which entered my life in 1980 and is most definitely with me this month. I was in the audience at the last night of Sweeney Todd at Drury Lane theatre when Denis Quilley made an empassioned curtain speech to remind the world that we knew what the critics did not choose to understand; That this would prove one of the most enduring and important pieces of theatre ever. Time has proved him right. I have worked on the marketing of the first studio production in Plymouth in 1983; I helped to host an amazing production of Sweeney in Buxton Opera House in repertoire with Oliver! on the original Kenny set – they cross-cast brilliantly; I have driven from Buxton to Perth to see the wonderful Donald Maxwell operatically powering the majestic score. I have seen many rep productions which I will uncover when, in my dotage, I revisit my boxes of programmes. I then joined many thousands cheering the National Theatre production which eventually returned Denis Quilley to his original role in 1993 – older, wiser, and still vengeful.
I thought I knew Sweeney but last Friday it came alive in a completely new way in the Pie Shop on Shaftesbury Avenue. A stunning company of actors delivered the score to a packed audience of pie shop customers. I heard the lyrics anew. I was riveted as always. Thank you to producer Rachel Edwards and director Bill Buckhurst for this unmissable version with Jeremy Secomb/Siobhan McCarthy leading a very special cast.
And next week I see it in all its operatic glory again – this time with Bryn Terfyl and Emma Thompson and an all star cast at ENO. I am resisting the temptation to watch the Met opera version they did – I want to have the real delight of the unexpected. I wish to be surprised.
So my enjoyment of theatre remains undimmed provided I can meet, work with, support, and see new creatives making new things happen. This week my son opens in Oppenheimer at the Vaudeville Theatre, and his mum opens in Death of a Salesman in the RSC at Stratford. More extraordinary theatergoing to come in the various hallowed portals of the RSC, but first Darlington and Scarborough for scratch explorations, workshops, and surgeries.
Have a great week
PS – still a couple of places available for the MA Creative Producer course at Mountview, and maybe see you at Death of a Salesman Wed 1st and/or Oppenheimer Wed 8th April (when Michael will be playing Oppenheimer). Proud Grady