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Summer in London, Rikki Beadle-Blair Interview: “Now feels like a perfect storm; there’s never been a more inspiring and exciting time to be an artist.”

Rikki Beadle-Blair
Rikki Beadle-Blair

Rikki Beadle-Blair

It’s mid-morning on a hot summer’s day in Stratford. I am sitting in on rehearsals for Rikki Beadle-Blair’s new play ‘Summer in London’ at Theatre Royal Stratford East. The cast are in the middle of a Skype call with a leading trans awareness charity and the conversation is geared around identifying micro aggression and confirming pronouns. To the uninformed, it may not be easily understood that there are still multiple difficulties for trans people, binary and non-binary who are seeking access to a society on the same terms as everyone else.

Beadle-Blair is a writer, director, composer, choreographer, designer, producer and performer. He has won several awards including the Sony Award, the Los Angeles Outfest Screenwriting and was ranked forth on the Rainbow list of the UK’s hundred most influential LGBT+ people. What star sign is he? “I’m a Leo. I would say I am a template Leo,” he smiles. “Leos like bright colours and are summery creatures. They have lots of friends. They like being at home and are very bold. I think Leo’s struggle to keep their egos in check – but if someone else is a good leader – then they are the first to admit it.”

We are talking at lunch between rehearsals ahead of the Queen’s Speech, a week on from the Grenfell Tower fire and on the same day that Donald Trump has blamed his predecessor Barack Obama over the death of Otto Warmbier, 22, the US student who died after being imprisoned for 17 months in North Korea. Beadle Blair smiles patiently when considering the long and slow decline of the Western World and says: “None of it surprises me but all of it is quite shocking. A lot of the things that I think of as really very terrible are really good. These are crazy and politically turbulent times, where you just don’t know what’s going to happen next, people are clinging to their jobs and are promoted beyond their capabilities. Now feels like a perfect storm; there’s never been a more inspiring and exciting time to be an artist,” says Beadle-Blair.

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CLICK HERE TO BOOK YOUR TICKETS FOR SUMMER IN LONDON

Rikki has written 28 plays in the last decade that have been performed at Theatre Royal Stratford East, Bush TheatreSoho Theatre, Tristan Bates Theatre and Contact Theatre in Manchester. What, I wonder, does success look like to him? “I know when a show is successful when I watch it and think: ‘who wrote that?’ Then I realise it was me,” he nods. “I feel something is successful when I’ve stepped out of my own limitations and done something I haven’t done before something that challenges me. If I can test my humanity, prejudice, ego and philosophy then I have succeeded.”

The aim – and Rikki seems to have adopted this as his mission – is to make theatre and art for everyone. “What Summer in London is and what my work is – the revolution for which it is calling for is not a revolution in where anyone is deposed but where everyone is valued,” he adds, quickly. “So that we are all elevated. All of us can be elevated by one another, that’s my job, my life’s work and that’s what I’m offering the audience… Along with the standard expectation of high entertainment.”

‘Summer in London is billed as a cross between “a modern Midsummer Night’s Dream and The Inbetweenerswith an all-transgender cast.” So, what else can audiences expect from this play? “An astonishing cast who are full of vibrancy and humanity,” he says. “I tend to do very funny plays around very heavy subjects. I wanted to make something set in London that was uplifting, vivid and inspiring. I think I live in the most romantic and inspiring cities in the world. I want to capture what it’s like to be part of that culture and the home of so many talented people who come here to get the urban grit. Theatre Royal Stratford East is the perfect delivery room for this play; this is Stratford international!”” he beams.

“This theatre is one of the most revolutionary theatres in the world.”

Summer in London is at Theatre Royal Stratford East on 13 July, with previews from 8 July, and runs until 29 July.

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Charlie Fink, Cover My Tracks Interview: “There is a lot of things in the realm of gig-theatre, but I feel like we’ve made something truly unique.”

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Interview: Danny and the Deep Blue Sea, Gareth O’Connor: “People either laugh from start to finish or they are very quiet.”

Danny and the Deep Blue Sea
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Anthony Biggs, Artistic Director Jermyn St Theatre: “Much though I hate to admit it, I would say Trump and Brexit are indirectly a good thing for the arts, or more specifically the making of us. It challenges us to respond.”

Anthony Biggs
Anthony Biggs

Anthony Biggs

Anthony Biggs’ is well into his final season as Artistic Director of Jermyn Street Theatre. He has been in charge at the venue since 2013, and has produced work by British authors such as JB Priestley, Terence Rattigan and A.A. Milne, as well as musicals including See What I Wanna See, Closer Than Ever and I’m Getting My Act Together and Taking it on the Road.

Anthony, it turned out, fancied doing an interview about Gorky, Jermyn St Theatre and more.

Modern drama owes a huge debt to Maxim Gorky. (See: Eugene O’Neill’, Samuel Beckett and Harold Pinter). The Last Ones by Maxim Gorky is a strikingly relevant and vivid portrayal of a family and a country in the grip of revolution. Biggs’ farewell production is the UK premiere of Maxim Gorky’s The Last Ones, which is set in 1908 in a Russia following the October Revolution and has been translated by Cathy Porter. The 1907 play has a bullying Russian patriarch at its centre and there is certainly a timeliness about it. “The striking thing about Gorky’s work is that he started writing relatively late in life having had a pretty tough childhood – he famously walked over a 1000 miles from his home along the river Volga to go the university in Kazan – Lenin went there – and having walked all the way there they told him to bugger off,” he says. “He became a beacon of the anti-establishment. In the play, there is this remarkable Donald Trump parallel – it’s clear that the main character Ivan, a retired Police Chief, believes in alternative facts – everything he says is fiction. He states at the end: “We must fight against our enemies”, like a mobster out of the Sopranos.”

The tiny Jermyn Street Theatre succeeds in its mission to revive classics and develop new musical theatre work with big ambition. But does he ever worry he’ll run out of quality old plays? And where does he start to look for the hidden gems? “I usually find these plays by searching through public libraries, trying to find work that provokes me,” he says. “When I read O’Neill’s The First Man they were about to do his famous play The Hairy Ape at the Old Vic which was written at the same time. I thought that was interesting – here was this other play that had been forgotten about, but felt equally relevant, and I had to do it.”

Rather excitingly, Biggs will soon be co-artistic director of The Playground Theatre, London. A new space with a seating capacity of up to 200 with a flexible stage and two dressing rooms. “The Playground Theatre is a huge space which used to be a bus garage. It’s a completely immersive space so it could be transformative,” he says. “The West End has its bonuses but it is like a goldfish bowl. We are in discussion with European companies who are making theatre that is so far away from anything going on in this country at the moment. And the foreign productions we do see here are usually don’t represent the level of experimentation that is happening abroad, or are watered down versions of what is going on elsewhere.”

Does he think Trump and Brexit are good thing for art and culture?

“I was a teenager under Thatcher and I know how awful it was then for the Arts community,” says Biggs. “I couldn’t afford to go to drama school in the late 80’s –there were hardly any grants then. But a lot of talent emerged in the eighties and early nineties that came out of a period of appalling arts funding. Maybe because those artists felt they had something important to say. Under Blair’s Labour we had the Lottery which changed everything – suddenly we had all these new buildings and literary and education departments – but I’m not sure the work improved. Much though I hate to admit it, I would say Trump and Brexit are indirectly a good thing for the arts, or more specifically the making of us. It challenges us to respond.”

The Last Ones is at Jermyn Street theatre, London, until 1 July. Box office: 020-7287 2875.

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T’Nia Miller The Ugly One at Park Theatre Cast Interview: “You’ll find us congregating in the bar which stock Kraken rum, so I’m as happy as a pig in …”

T'Nia Miller
T'Nia Miller

T’Nia Miller

Do you think everyone does have body confidence issues? Some people seem to have none at all, do they just not realise it?
No I don’t think everyone has body issues despite the media’s efforts to make us feel inferior in some way or other. Within different cultures ‘body issues’ are non-existent and emphasis on self-worth is measured  on less fickle values/ideals.

Is it quite fun working at Park Theatre?
You’ll find us often congregating in the bar which stock Kraken rum, so I’m as happy as a pig in …

What drew you to auditioning for The Ugly One?
Well  it’s a very funny play and I rarely get to do much theatre. I also hugely admire our director and love working with him.

Getting older is quite fun isn’t it: do you need time to pass so that you can look back with wisdom?
Is getting old fun? Umm personally I wouldn’t know as I’m 21 years young. I’ll have to trust you on that one. I have to say I’ve found wisdom in the voices of four year olds as well as those in their twilight years.

What can audiences expect from The Ugly One 10 years on since it was last seen?
I imagine it’s still as side splitting ten years ago as it is today! On a more serious note If things continue to head the way they are in the western world and with the impact of globalisation I imagine it will still be very much relevant in ten years’ time.

CLICK HERE TO BOOK YOUR TICKETS FOR THE UGLY ONE

How have the performances been going? Is it fun performing in an intimate space such as Park 90?
Every night is different still so much to explore and learn.

Can you describe your director (Roy) in 3 words?
No. Joking umm he’s intelligent, innovative fun

Last question – easy one – Do any of you share the view that some take that Brexit and Trump are good for arts and culture?
I can’t even deal … seriously I could write a dissertation on this question alone.

Interview Dance Umbrella’s Artistic Director, Emma Gladstone: “I’m really thrilled that we are working with a whole mix of international and diverse artists. We really hope you enjoy what we’ve cooked up!”

Emma Gladstone
Emma Gladstone

Emma Gladstone

Dance Umbrella is London’s international dance festival, celebrating 21st century choreography across the capital. Emma Gladstone is the artistic director of Dance Umbrella. Over its long history Dance Umbrella has been undeniably influential in opening the eyes of art-makers to a very different kind of way to make and present work.

We are talking on the phone ahead of the 2017 season announcement, Gladstone is seeking quiet from a noisy toddler ahead of an important meeting at The Barbican, London. Certainly, there is plenty on her plate “I would say it is a mixture of exhaustion and anticipation,” she adds, quickly. “I get very excited about launching our festival season. It’s a massive time of the year and afterwards I can just about breathe a sigh of relief. One of the things I’m trying to do is keep it really tight; everything we are doing is outlined on the back of the brochure.”

Gladstone’s aim is to make a Dance Umbrella for everyone. “I think there is a huge audience interested in live art, physical theatre and dance. There’s a huge potential audience that don’t get what we are doing yet, but I’m trying to change their minds,” she says. “It’s important to remember that Dance for the mass audiences since 1930 has been mostly classical ballet. I think there is a big crossover of people who are curious – they think they won’t like it and I want to persuade them otherwise. We programme some evocative and resonant work that can transport you intellectually, emotionally and physically.

CLICK HERE TO BOOK YOUR TICKETS FOR DANCE UMBRELLA, MOVING LONDON, 11-28 October 

Rocío Molina

Rocío Molina. Click on the image to book your tickets for Fallen From Heaven

Since many creative companies can’t endure without subsidy and/or big commissions, their identities swing according to the work they’re permitted to make. Many find themselves pushed towards children’s theatre. Gladstone is instinctively inclusive, and fundamentally aware of the bigger picture when it comes to programming work for a live art festival. “I started programming the festival very selfishly as a young mum in 2000, when I was working at The Place,” she says. “It’s such a physical art form and lots of young people attend classes so for me it made sense to integrate pieces for them into Dance Umbrella. It’s like having Rocío Molina returning with Fallen From Heaven (Caída del Cielo). She ended up getting an Olivier nomination [for Bosque Ardora in 2015] as soon as she was taken out that ‘flamenco box’ and her work was seen for what it is more widely. I’m really keen on that.”

Dance Umbrella 2017

Dance Umbrella 2017. Click on the image to book your tickets.

It is by all accounts worth looking at what value we place on the work Dance Umbrella showcases. But what is she most proud of in this year’s line up? “I would say I’m most proud of Satchie Noro and Silvain Ohl’s spectacular outdoor performance Origami, on a 40ft shipping container at Battersea Power Station that will be going on a little tour of the Thames and around London,” she says. “I’ve been working with developers for the first time, so it’s been quite a long process getting access and permission from those sites down the river. It’s impressive but it’s got something very peaceful about it. We are also going to sunny Croydon; I’m so keen on us getting out of the centre and the big houses. There’s a real pleasure in the mobility of running a festival outside of a venue.”

The emphasis of her programming is on increasing diversity, on gender equality and co-production, making the audience base as wide as it can possibly be. “We’re doing these two very special festival-within-a-festival events; one at Rich Mix and one at Shoreditch Town Hall,” she says excitedly. “Guest Programmer Freddie Opoku-Addaie is creating a festival-within-a-festival with two live bands from all over Asia, Europe and South America. I’m really thrilled that we are working with a whole mix of international and diverse artists. We really hope you enjoy what we’ve cooked up!”

Dance Umbrella 2017 will take place across London from 11 – 28 October 2017.

 

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The Ugly One at Park Theatre, Interview: Arian Nik: “Art, theatre & performance is one of the best outlets of frustration & another opportunity to have you voice heard.”

Charlie Dorfman and Arian Nik in The Ugly One. Photo Credit Helen Maybanks
Charlie Dorfman and Arian Nik in The Ugly One. Photo Credit Helen Maybanks

Charlie Dorfman and Arian Nik in The Ugly One. Photo Credit Helen Maybanks

Their PR asked if I’d like to have a chat with the cast of Buckland Theatre Company’s The Ugly One and I said ‘yes please, can I ask them all the same question?’ and before they had a chance to say no I did just that.
 During the course of what follows you will hear various cast members talking about various things. Specifically: getting older, The Ugly One (obviously) and more.
 ‘FYI’ The Ugly One is a scalpel sharp comedy on beauty, identity and getting ahead in life. You will also bear witness to a question about Trump and Brexit’s impact on arts and culture. Oh and it runs at the Park Theatre until 24 June.
Arian Nik answers the same set of questions as Indra Ové yesterday.
Do you think everyone does have body confidence issues? Some people seem to have none at all, do they just not realise it?
I can’t really speak for others, but as far as my own confidence goes – I think we live in a society now where there are so many pressures from the media that it’s hard not to have hang ups about your appearance!

Is it quite fun working at Park Theatre?
Working at The Park Theatre has been a blast so far. I trained at Mountview  Academy in North London so spent a lot of my time as an acting student seeing productions at The Park- feels awesome to now be on the other side. The theatre is always buzzing & the staff are super friendly.

What drew you to auditioning for The Ugly One?
There were so many reasons! Having visited The Park so much as a student, to perform there was always a goal of mine. Secondly, the piece itself excited me so much! I had loads of questions & was hungry to explore the possible answers. Above all – I wanted to work with Roy. His approach to text & story telling rang true with me. I was itching to create with him.

CLICK HERE TO BOOK YOUR TICKETS FOR THE UGLY ONE

Getting older is quite fun isn’t it: do you need time to pass so that you can look back with wisdom?
I don’t believe wisdom necessarily comes from age or time, but from experience. One person can experience more in a year than another person may do in a lifetime. The experiences offer the wisdom. Not age, nor time.
But yes, getting older is fun. I counted down the days till I could get my hands on a Drivers Licence.

What can audiences expect from The Ugly One 10 years on since it was last seen?
Audiences can expect an exciting, thought-provoking & hilarious night out. The play is more relevant than ever. The issues explored & the expectations from the world of the play are perhaps more relatable now than they were 10 years ago.

How have the performances been going? Is it fun performing in an intimate space such as Park 90?
The preview period has been so much fun. The audiences have been warm & welcoming which has really allowed us to explore, cement but above all – PLAY.

Can you describe your director (Roy) in 3 words?
Open. Playful. Supportive.

Last question – easy one – Do any of you share the view that some take that Brexit and Trump are good for arts and culture?
As long as there are no cuts or shunning involved- yes. World politics is igniting something within people more so than ever. Art, theatre & performance is one of the best outlets of frustration & another opportunity to have you voice heard.

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The Ugly One at Park Theatre – Cast Interview – Indra Ové: “I’ve enjoyed getting older. Age has never worried me. Live in the moment!”

Indra Ové in rehearsals for Buckland Theatre Company’s The Ugly One at Park90. Credit Helen Maybanks
Indra Ové in rehearsals for Buckland Theatre Company’s The Ugly One at Park90. Credit Helen Maybanks

Indra Ové in rehearsals for Buckland Theatre Company’s The Ugly One at Park90. Credit Helen Maybanks

Their PR asked if I’d like to have a chat with the cast of Buckland Theatre Company’s The Ugly One and I said ‘yes please, can I ask them all the same question?’ and before they had a chance to say no I did just that.
During the course of what follows you will hear various cast members talking about various things. Specifically: getting older, The Ugly One (obviously) and more.
‘FYI’ The Ugly One is a scalpel sharp comedy on beauty, identity and getting ahead in life. You will also bear witness to a question about Trump and Brexit’s impact on arts and culture. Oh and it runs at the Park Theatre until 24 June.
Anyway, here is what Indra had to say for herself.

Do you think everyone does have body confidence issues? Some people seem to have none at all, do they just not realise it?
Yes I think most Women in the West have body confidence issues. We’re made to. I think its part of a beauty conspiracy. Created by the press, by cosmetics firms and the drug industry. If people don’t have it they are very lucky. Men suffer much, much less than women. Though the pressure is effecting them too now.

Is it quite fun working at Park Theatre?
Yes enormous fun. It’s a great theatre and space. And I’m local so it’s pure joy for me!

What drew you to auditioning for The Ugly One?

The script!! I loved it from my first read. I love the way it’s written and I love the subject. It’s so important. And I really enjoy the mixture of tragedy and comedy. And the dynamic change of characters. I love my three Fannys. It’s great to go from playing someone my own age into someone aged 73! And I wanted the opportunity to work with Roy. We’d met a lot in the past year and I was keen to work with him. And since the Park has opened I’ve wanted to work here!!

Getting older is quite fun isn’t it: do you need time to pass so that you can look back with wisdom?
Yes I’ve enjoyed getting older. Age has never worried me. Experience and wisdom is a great and liberating thing. Live in the moment!

What can audiences expect from The Ugly One 10 years on since it was last seen?

A fascinating reflection of what’s happening in Western society today that I think is even more significant, relevant now than 10 years ago.

CLICK HERE TO BOOK YOUR TICKETS FOR THE UGLY ONE

How have the performances been going? Is it fun performing in an intimate space such as Park 90?

Performances have been great. Especially as we’ve had packed houses, and such responsive audiences. It’s great working in such an intimate space and being so up close and personal with the audience.

Can you describe your director (Roy) in 3 words?
Funny Brave Playful & Creative

Last question – easy one – Do any of you share the view that some take that Brexit and Trump are good for arts and culture?
No Brexit and Trump are incredibly dangerous for the arts!!