I’m particularly enjoying meeting people – both audiences and Playhouse staff – and hearing their opinions about the work we do, the building, and the organisation in general. It’s clear that everybody feels a real ownership of the Nottingham Playhouse, which is a really positive sign for a local theatre.
There have already been several highlights for me. I really enjoyed the Shine Sharing, a showcase for the free Youth Theatres that Nottingham Playhouse run in the community where those groups came together to perform on the main stage. Watching how excited, nervous and proud the young performers were – and their families, friends and teachers in the audience even more so – was a real high. It reminds you of how magical being in a theatre can be. Another real pleasure of the job is telling writers that we want to produce their plays. One local writer sticks out in particular as this will be their first main stage production, not just at the Nottingham Playhouse but anywhere, and their on-going excitement is infectious; they haven’t stopped grinning for months.
Several people have asked me if Nottingham Playhouse will continue to place as big an emphasis on telling local stories, and I am definitely interested in programming both new and existing work that is located in the region. But I also think it’s important to explore global themes, as these will resonate just as much with our audience, if not more so. I think many people come to the theatre because it offers them a window onto the world, or for escapism, or to expand their horizons and challenge their ideas. So alongside local stories we’ll also be presenting work that looks at the world through a wider lens.
Giles (Croft) has given me a collection of interviews with every former Artistic Director of the Nottingham Playhouse talking about their time running the building, and it is really fascinating. It’s given me a real sense of the legacy that I’m inheriting. It’s full of the hopes, dreams and frustrations of those Artistic Directors over the past 50 years and it’s clear that there are definitely some themes that run across the history of the theatre. In some ways it’s reassuring to realise that others have met similar challenges before, in other ways it makes you feel even more responsibility not to mess it up!
I don’t start rehearsals for my first show until January, but I’ve already begun working with the writer, designer and casting director. I’m really proud it’s the first show of my tenure, for various reasons that will be apparent when we announce, and judging by the response of our staff when they read the play it will evoke a passionate response from our audiences too. Recently we did a photoshoot for the poster and it was surprisingly moving – seeing an idea you feel strongly about realised in the flesh.
The next six months will be spent meeting as many people within the city as I can – both our audience and also the people who work in the wider creative industry. I’m also going to dedicate time to learning all the codes to the doors in the building, and all the staff names and job titles as well… I live in fear that somebody’s going to test me on them at some point soon! The next big date for us will be the Season Announcement on Monday 25 September when we’ll reveal our main stage plans for the whole of 2018. Nottingham Playhouse hasn’t revealed a whole year’s programme in one go for a long time, and there are some really special productions, so I think there will be a real buzz in the auditorium that evening.