29 October 2008
I'm often asked how I chose the plays we produce. They come to me in a variety of ways but some of the more curious include:
FANTASTIC MR FOX, which began our enduring relationship with Roald Dahl. When I left the Bristol Old Vic Theatre School my first job was an amazing season at The Haymarket in Basingstoke. Laertes in HAMLET, Yasha in THE CHERRY ORCHARD, Tim in NOISES OFF and Mean Mr Bean in FANTASTIC MR FOX. When I launched the company in Birmingham four years later I really wanted something different to the usual Christmas fare, and then I remembered how much I'd enjoyed FANTASTIC MR FOX. It was a good decision: 17,500 people poured the theatre, which hadn't had a Christmas show for 20 years. Now we play to over 40,000 each Christmas - not too bad for a venue that seats 376.
CAT ON A HOT TIN ROOF, our first anniversary show which sealed the arrival of the BSC in Brum. I took a friend to see a show at The Royal Exchange and noticed in the programme that three of the actors had been in CAT ON A HOT TIN ROOF. I asked my friend if the play was any good. When she told me it was one of the best plays she knew, I sort of decided it would be right for us. When the director I had in mind confirmed her opinion, it was a done deal. I definitely got round to reading it a week later.
SPEED-THE-PLOW, one of the favourite productions we've produced. On a visit to Samuel French bookshop, I thought I had bought THE PLOUGH AND THE STARS. On the train back to Birmingham, I thought "this isn't very Irish". By the time I arrived at New Street Station I'd fallen in love with the play and phoned John Harrison from the platform to ask if he'd read it for me. They don't come much better. (Never did get round to reading THE PLOUGH AND THE STARS).
PROOF, another favourite. I saw the original production on Broadway with Mary Louise Parker. I've never experienced such a sensational Act One curtain. Throughout the interval I dreamed of producing a West End production of the show. It remained a dream until six years later we ended up at The Arts. Sally Oliver made her professional debut as our lead, now in EMMERDALE.
SKELLIG, our current joy! I couldn't get a ticket to see The Young Vic production. Neither could anyone else. I tried for five years to get the rights, which seemed to bounce from producer to producer and never saw the light of day. I got used to ringing every six months to see if my luck would change. It did. A producer was about to let go the rights and I grabbed them, with both hands, to stage the first production since the Young Vic. It's a mystery why such great plays don't get back to the stage, but I'm not complaining - it's been one of the treats of 2008 and there's still two weeks in London to go!
Feel free to suggest any ideas you have. I almost certainly haven't thought of them!
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