Rehearsals for Alice in Wonderland

Making theatre during the pandemic is tough and strange, and companies are tackling the various issues from multiple directions. Oxford-based Creation Theatre have been creating interactive shows on Zoom. For The Stage, I talked to Chief Executive Lucy Askew and Director Zoe Seaton about their new AI-based production of Alice in Wonderland.

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Robbie Jack

In all the interviews I read with Simon McBurney, he was painted as a very difficult figure to talk to. I found the opposite. He asked about me, the birds, how lockdown was going. His style of conversation is definitely unique – he pauses for five or ten seconds after every question, and his stories meander unexpectedly at length – but his answers always lead somewhere exciting.

I loved speaking to him, and I’m proud of this piece.

Read it on The Stage here.

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Tristram Kenton / The Guardian

We don’t hear enough about failure from successful people. For this piece, I spoke to four prolific playwrights – Alan Ayckbourn, Lynn Nottage, April De Angelis and Anthony Neilson – about times when their shows have gone disastrously wrong. This was all before the pandemic, so there was still an element of innocent joy in hearing about these relative crises.

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Murdo Macleod / The Guardian

Daughter caused chaos at the fringe in 2018. A lot of people hated it. I loved it. When I spoke to Lazarus about the controversy, he was really thoughtful. He was very clear that the show is not for everyone, and it can be incredibly hard to watch.

” The hardest responses to reconcile are from the people – primarily women – who have been hurt by the performance. “I don’t think everyone needs to see the show,” Lazarus says frankly, when I ask about those who reported crying in the toilets afterwards, wishing they hadn’t seen it. “The show picks at a scab and if you have a trauma or a trigger that’s in there, it’s gonna peel really bad. I don’t know how to prepare people for that.” After every performance the company hold a space to talk, led by producer Aislinn Rose. Lazarus doesn’t attend those sessions; audiences feel more comfortable without him.”

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“Charlotte has always said: ‘If Paines Plough ever comes up, we’re going to go for it and we’re going to get it.’ I think she just knew.” Because two artistic directors ran the company previously, it set an expectation that a job share could be possible. “There’s this old idea of artistic director as rockstar,” Bennett says. “But the idea of a singular vision is not something I buy into.” As a pair, Posner says: “You’re scrutinising things through two lenses. You’re challenging each other all the time in a really healthy way.”

For The Stage, I spoke to Katie Posner and Charlotte Bennett about their aims and ambitions for Paines Plough.

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Linda Nylind / The Guardian

I really enjoyed talking to Jessica Hynes about her part in Churchill’s Far Away. Over a lunch of slurpy noodles, we discussed hope and violence, both in our time and in that of the play.

Far Away is sharply, horrifically resonant now, and only takes half an hour to read. Highly recommend it. It’s of a rare breed of play that reads as well as it performs.

Read the interview here.

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Sean Smith / The Guardian

“Early on in mime school, I hit a brick wall. It’s about 6ft high and the width of my outstretched arms, but you can still see my shiny, plum-faced embarrassment through it.”

As part of London international mime festival, I was sent to mime school with renowned mime artist Nola Rae, testing just how much embarrassment I was willing to brave to keep my job. I ended up loving it.

Read the piece here.

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Joseph Lynn

For The Stage’s Big Interview, I chatted to Prema Mehta about her candlelit design for Swive [Elizabeth], in which lighting is a key storytelling tool. Mehta spoke beautifully about designing for the wood-panelled Wanamaker, the wonder and strangeness of working with candles, and the work that still needs to be done to make the backstage industry more diverse and inclusive.

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Ioana’s design for The Strange Tale of Charlie Chaplin and Stan Laurel

For The Stage, I spoke to designer Ioana Curelea, winner of the Naomi Wilkinson prize launched by Told By A Idiot. It was particularly interesting to hear about her views on theatre in Romania, and the support – or lack thereof – for young people in theatre.

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Tristram Kenton

I took Lucy McCormick for an archery lesson to talk about her new show, Post Popular. The show deals with the ideas of feminism and heroism. We both got bullseyes.

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War Horse

“This thing is alive, this thing is alive, this thing is alive.”

I’ve long been fascinated by the idea of where puppets go to die. Writing this and talking to so many passionate puppeteers and collectors was a dream.

Read it here. This is one of my favourites.

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