Adam Penford: We’re developing a programme that will excite but also take some risks

Friday 4th August 2017

I’ve been back in Nottingham a few weeks now and it’s been a pleasant surprise to remember how friendly and welcoming everyone is, both in the theatre and the city in general.

I have spent a lot of my time meeting local artists and young talent, talking to them about Nottingham, the Playhouse and what they want from us as an organisation in the future. They’re imaginative and clued up and engaged. I see a key role of my job as being an advocate for the city’s emerging talent, be that actors or writers or any kind of theatre makers, and offering a platform to share that work with our audiences.

The idea of developing an audience really excites me. Then taking that audience on the journey with me as I push the artistic programme in new directions. We’re developing a theatre programme that will excite but also take some risks in our artistic content. There should be something for everyone.

When I was putting together my first programme, I took a step back and looked at Nottingham as a city and a community, its historical and contemporary social and political identity. I considered which writers and plays and theatrical genres reflect the soul of the city. Simultaneously, I thought about the artists whose work I admire that I would like to attract to our theatre. I also looked at what was already on offer at all the other great and varied arts institutions in the region. I think its important to strike a balance between having some continuity within our programme and identifying areas where I can bring a new eye and refresh what we do.

You can expect a bold and varied programme with a contemporary edge that will hopefully attract new people to the theatre, whilst also delighting our loyal audience. Across the year there will be a wide variety of productions that are moving, funny and thought-provoking. I’m particularly proud that there’s a clutch of well-known names and faces that we’ll be announcing soon, so watch this space.

The biggest challenge a new Artistic Director faces is learning to juggle all of the responsibilities that come to your door. For example, one important and enjoyable job is nurturing the playwrights who you’ve commissioned to write work for future programming. These writers are at various stages in their careers, and the commissioned plays are all at various stages of development, so you have a personal relationship with each artist.

And, of course, in the parallel with the artistic work, we also have to juggle everything from what’s happening in the Playhouse Bar and Kitchen and public spaces, to the toilets as well! It’s such a varied job, which is one of the reasons why I was attracted to it. But that’s also a challenge when you’re first starting out.

You can’t always please everybody and it’s challenging to make tough decisions. Ultimately, after you’ve considered the whole picture, I’m learning you just have to go with your gut.

Nottingham Playhouse is such a prestigious theatre with a really rich history and reputation for staging top-class work. The theatre has launched the careers of many of our most renowned artists. I want uphold those standards, so of course there’s an anxiety about not messing it up. Luckily, I’ve got Stephanie [Sirr] as Chief Executive who knows exactly what she’s doing to guide me.

I’m really grateful there is the overlap between Artistic Directors as there’s a huge amount I’m learning from Giles. He has run Nottingham Playhouse for 18 years and others venues prior to arriving here, so he knows precisely what’s expected. He’s been incredibly generous and really understands the organisation, the city and our audience. He’s been imparting knowledge since I was appointed last year and I know he will continue to do so. The truth is, when November comes I won’t actually want Giles to leave because he’s such a valuable resource and great to be around. Although, his desk does have a better view than mine, so maybe I won’t regret him leaving quite so much after all…

Photography by Tom Wren.

save the date

All will be revealed on Monday 25 September when we announce our entire 2018 programme. We’ll be hosting a special event for invited guests and Playhouse Pass members. Buy a membership today and be among the first to hear more about the shows as they are announced live.