This week, apart from my sense of play, I have been struck by the joy of international collaboration. At a time when politicians may be talking about narrowing their focus to the local and the immediate, the chosen ones and sovereignty within borders, we in the arts are opening our arms, reaching out our hands, and making new long-term healing and creative relationships.
At the monthly Producers Pool which I run we welcomed theatre producers from/working in Spain, Germany, Denmark, Peru, Scotland, Wales, Saudi Arabia, Malaysia, Singapore, Australia, Poland, Korea, France, USA, Norway, Thailand, Greece, Germany, Cornwall and Japan….oh and England. We meet each month – so if you are a commercial or subsidised theatre producer and are not on my lists, please let me know.
Up at Mountview our MA producers are exploring projects from Belfast, Hamburg, Bangkok, Bristol, Singapore, Tehran, Paris and they are working with Transparence, 1927, The Park Theatre, Blind Summit, The Finborough Theatre, The Donmar Warehouse, Live Theatre Newcastle, Sadlers Wells Theatre with many discussions about ways to bring international theatre companies to share their work in the UK.
We have had many conversations about the role of the arts in contemporary Britain – ensuring we are not just preaching to the choir, playing to the 48%, and reflecting the opinions of our own multicultural, queer, creatively sensual and embracing world.
This weekend Kath and I spent time at the Durham Drama Festival which features 9 new pieces of theatre which had been chosen from over 120 writer submissions. There are a staggering 37 theatre societies within the university creating work of every variety across the year. Kath ran a workshop on finding the spark for inspirational devising and writing. I led one for producers who were exploring their paths. Together we watched 6 of the 9 works and met with the creative companies behind them. We offered supportive critical suggestions alongside our colleagues Michael Brazier (NSDF), Gemma Wright (Central), Ben Weaver Hincks (Haymarket Theatre) and Matt Dann (freelance director / Nell Gwynn and RSC).
My immense congratulations to Annie Davison (Festival Director) and Qasim Salam (Judges’ Liaison) together with all their team for pulling this amazing, intensive, varied and exciting festival together. A number of the works are absolutely deserving of moving forward through further drafts to fully realised productions – maybe at Edinburgh Festival Fringe or on tour or in the London off-West End circuit. One stood out for Kath and me because of its combination of powerful writing, fully realised simple staging, backed by immense testimonial research and fine performances. Screen 9 explores the world of the survivors of the Aurora cinema shootings in Colorado in 2012. What deserves mention is that the research, the writing, and the direction were by one artist. Thank you Kate Barton for bringing this to the stage, and to assistant Tom Harper and producer Matthew Jennings for (I presume) giving her the perspective she needed when she was knee deep as writer and director.
There were other standout pieces, standout creatives and standout performances – and the annual D’Oliviers celebrate these. I’m glad I wasn’t one of the judges for the awards – tough choices.
The future of the arts is in the hands of the next generation. I am delighted to be one of the grey beards who help them realise that they can (and must) run, duck, dive and move the creative ball forward, safe in their hands. Start local. Think Global. And make Art.
PS – the lego model of Durham Cathedral is amazing