Have you bookmarked Stagedoor’s new weekly theatre podcast In House? This week’s episode sees MyTheatreMates co-founder Terri Paddock interviewing King’s Head Theatre artistic director Adam Spreadbury-Maher. Here are highlights and the full interview…
Born in Australia, Adam Spreadbury-Maher moved to London in 2005 to study at the Central School of Speech and Drama. Prior to his appointment to the King’s Head Theatre in 2010, he co-founded the (now defunct) Cock Tavern Theatre in Kilburn and the (still very much thriving) OperaUpClose company.
Under his tenure, the King’s Head has continued, in the tradition of its founder Dan Crawford who ran it for 35 years before his death, to make ‘magic on a shoestring’, while also massively expanding the theatre’s programming (circa 90 productions a year, including several annual festivals) and development initiatives, and introducing diversity policies and the fringe’s first pay agreement with Equity. He’s also secured the theatre’s future with an even bigger physical expansion, which over the next two years, will see the King’s Head reborn as a 350-seat, two-auditoria theatre as part of the £400 million Islington Square development next door to its current premises.
- Will he stick around as long as Dan Crawford (35 years)?
- What’s the most interesting aspect of this original London pub theatre’s history?
- What achievements is he proudest of?
- What can we expect in the new theatre?
- How will the history and ethos of the old be preserved in the new?
Adam discusses all of this and more at length in the podcast. And he namechecks lots of people who have made the journey possible and reveals which other London artistic directors inspire and impress him and why.
Here are a few highlights to tantalise. Listen to the podcast for the full story.
“What Dan [Crawford] did was show audiences and artists that you could make special, exquisite, fragile, exciting, unique work in spaces that questioned what theatre was and what theatre meant.”
“I love it when things go wrong because you learn so much. Sometimes people get upset when things go wrong. I always offer them solace by saying: ‘But what have you learnt? Whatever this has cost you, just focus on the lesson. That’s what you’ve gotten out of this’.”
“Cold chicken and warm ice cream… The reason why Dan had dinner theatre was it was a way to convince people to come to the Kings Head because back in the day when there weren’t restaurants on Upper Street. Instead of a dinner now we try and push a King’s Head Theatre branded mouse-mat or tote bag on you.”
“The studio space is the future of British theatre. That’s where the new stuff happens. There is no National Theatre, there is no RSC, there is no West End without small studio spaces. That’s where people go and cut their teeth, that’s where people get discovered, that’s where people make mistakes in safe environments, that’s where people can flex their muscles and try things out, that’s where people meet and make the artistic collaborations that are the future of theatre. You have to have a laboratory. That’s what the King’s Head has always been.”
“I am so sure that [rebuilding at Islington Square] is the right thing to do, but I also understand why some people will feel sentimental and nostalgic about what the King’s Head was, and I don’t think that they’re wrong. In the process of losing something, which we undeniably are, we are gaining a whole lot of something as well. And that something doesn’t just include the possibility to make work more sustainable and to retain artists on their artistic life-cycle for a much longer period (by working through and graduating through the two spaces). It also means that we have a security of tenure for the King’s Head Theatre, which means it’s safe for generations to come.”
“I really hope [the new theatre] becomes a space that is going to have three purposes. One, for the King’s Head Theatre to make more ambitious and exciting work in. [Two,] For us to welcome regional companies — to be a non-London-centric-London-theatre — to be a place for regional artists to be showcased. And [three,] for exciting producers to come and do first revivals and UK premieres of musical theatre work that needs to be done in a 250-seat theatre in Zone 1.”
People ask: “‘How do you make it work at the Kings Head!?’ Move really quickly and spin lots of plates.”Read the full transcript