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Park Theatre, Jez Bond: “Theatres have to come up with novel ways to make money.”

Jez Bond, Artistic Director of Park Theatre, sits hunched on the sofa, twiddling his hair. In a pink hoodie and red Puma trainers, he looks younger than his thirty-nine years. His voice is soft but street-casual, but what stands out is the cheeky smile; which make you notice his sparkly eyes and his determination not to take himself too seriously.

Jez Bond – © Piers Foley Photography

In a year that’s seen him direct Ian McKellen and continue to build Park’s reputation as an exciting home for new plays and celebrated transfers, Bond is also knackered. “I haven’t slept much because I’ve got a little baby at home”, he says.

Park Theatre opened in 2013 in London’s Finsbury Park. Described as “a neighbourhood theatre with global ambition,” it offers a mixed program of new writing, classics and revivals. As well as the main auditorium (Park200), the building includes a studio theatre (Park90), a rehearsal space and a buzzing Café Bar. Is it true that the theatre is part of a housing development?

“Sure, it’s 560 luxury apartments and a little theatre in the basement…” Bond grins, “Ha! That would be nice! No; that’s fake news. Essentially, it’s the other way around. We wanted to build a theatre and discovered a building that was a former office in this incredible area. We raised the money to buy the building… and to raise the money for the theatre we spoke to Islington Council to add two storeys to the front of the building: two 1-beds and one 2-bedroom flat. That gave us a million into the pot. We have to raise £250,000 a year to keep our doors open,” he adds.

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We talk about the recent Park Theatre fundraiser starring Sir Ian McKellen. Titled Shakespeare, Tolkien, Others & You, the show offered audiences the chance to get up close with Gandalf. How was it directing a legend?

“Absolutely incredible – he’s a work-horse and the most incredibly generous man. He did ten shows in a week and after every single show he either took thirty people out to dinner or did the signings and selfies. Every single interval – he was entertaining 6-8 people with private drinks in his dressing room.” Bond beams. “He was a joy to work with.”

I ask him teasingly if it’s true that he sold McKellen-branded wine at the event. His eyes widen. “The merchandising was great. We had an excellent sponsor in the form of Tikveš wines from Macedonia, who provided 1,800 bottles of special edition McKellen-branded wine, some of which were given away as part of the experience people bought, and some of which were sold independently on the night,” he says. Amazing.

Anyone feeling snippy about Bond’s vision, or his ambition, would do well to celebrate his savvy approach. “It’s fair to say the problem with the arts is that there is not enough support. We need a quarter of a million to keep the doors open without producing a show. Theatres have to come up with novel ways to make money. The government keeps saying ‘theatres have to be more entrepreneurial’ and what people don’t realise is, it costs a lot of money to fundraise. If you look at the most successful – the Donmar, NT or the Almeida – they have between 5-10 people in their development department – that’s a salary bill of what, £300,000? The government makes things harder with Gift Aid legislation tightening – so we are able to claim only a very small proportion of Gift Aid on the Ian McKellen money.”

Sir-Ian-McKellen-in-Shakespeare2c-Tolkien2c-Others-You-9.-Photo-by-Mark-Douet

Sir Ian McKellen

He is not too thrilled with the changes in legislation. “Normally you can contact someone to fundraise – now you have to know that they’ve said you’re allowed to contact them,” he explains. “If we do a fundraiser we need to know who is sitting at what table or in what seat. What we would usually do is look these people up or Google them so that we know: that’s so-and-so or she’s the chairman of that board as a conversation point.” But new privacy laws are making this impossible.

On the plus side, he says, it will stop the companies cold-calling vulnerable people selling double-glazing that they don’t need. “But on the other hand it will impede theatres and arts charities who are working with engaged people who want to be involved and just sometimes need a bit of a nudge. In order to raise the money to keep affordable theatre or give opportunities to the community you have to be a bit capitalist,” he admits. “The people who paid for drinks with McKellen offset open dress rehearsals for students, engagement with Age UK and communities from the local council estate experiencing theatre for the very first time.”

Bond’s own taste in theatre is straightforward: “I love well-made plays – ideally a linear narrative with a beginning, middle and an end. I like story; tell me a good story and I’ll stay.”

How conscious is he about equal gender representation on Park Theatre’s stages? “There are only a limited number of plays which we can afford to produce, we have conversations with guest producers and we really try and ensure diversity,” he says. “This season has ended up less female-focused in Park200 as we would have liked but we have balanced this by being more female-focused in Park90. In the next season we have some really good female led stories.”

We turn to the big show of the recently announced 2018 season, Pressure, which features his secret weapon: David Haig. “He’s the man! David has written Pressure and he is in it. It was originally at Chichester and so this is the London premiere. I read the play and said we’d love to do it. It should be great,” Bond says.

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David Haig in Pressure (Runs at Park200 from 28 Mar until 28 Apr 2018)

How does he get such an array of big-name stars to perform at Park Theatre? Is it blackmail? He laughs. “Well, there’s a lot of skeletons in a lot of closets and if you’ve got the key…. Most of the closets are located in the housing development. They’re in the basement.” He smiles sweetly. “I’m joking.” Or is he?

Park Theatre’s 2018 Season is on sale now 

Wine premieres in London for a strictly limited engagement from 9-13 January 2018

Wine
Wine

Wine

Following substantial critical acclaim of their run of No Help Sent at Camden Theatre and Three. Two. F*CK at the Edinburgh Fringe, LAGO Theatre have  announced the premiere of Jack West’s new play, WINE.

Playing between 9 and 13 January 2018 at the Tristan Bates Theatre, WINE is a gripping real time drama which bluntly confronts all sides of the ‘pro-life’ argument.

It’s their second first date. She’s living out her Hollywood dream whilst he’s still living with his brother. As secrets of the past creep up on them, it’s time to bring out their safe word. Wine.

Wine stars Harriet Clarke (Girls Like That, Liverpool Playhouse Studio, Hayfever, Pericles, The Picture of Dorian Gray, A Midsummer Nights Dream, Steel Magnolias) and Joshua Glenister (TV: Doctors, Three, Omgaan Met Depressie, Film: Strain, MOD, Red Hoodie).

Writer and director, Jack West, said: “I’m extremely proud at how far LAGO have come in just a few short years and premiering Wine at the Tristan Bates in the heart of London’s theatre land is a dream come true”.

PREVIOUS CRITICAL ACCLAIM

‘I hope we’re going to see more of LAGO Theatre.’ 
Susan Elkin

*****
A company that’s certainly going places”
Londontheatre1

Wine runs at the Tristan Bates Theatre from 9 – 13 January 2018. Tickets: full price £15, concessions £12. Box Office: 020 3841 6600 https://www.tristanbatestheatre.co.uk/whats-on/wine

Twitter: @LagoTheatre Facebook: @Lago Theatre

LISTINGS


Venue:
Tristan Bates Theatre, 1A Tower St, London WC2H 9NP
Dates: 9 – 13 January 2018
Performances: Tuesday to Saturday evening: 7.45pm; Saturday matinee: 2.45pm
Running Time: 1hr 15
Suitability:
suitable for all ages
Tickets: full price £15, concessions £12
Bookings:
https://www.tristanbatestheatre.co.uk/whats-on/wine

James Graham’s critically acclaimed play Quiz transfers to the West End

QUIZ by Graham, , Writer – James Graham, Director – Daniel Evans, Credit: Johan Persson

With Labour of Love and Ink currently running in the West End, James Graham achieves a hat trick as his sell-out ‘major coughing hit’, Quiz, transfers to the Noël Coward Theatre. A provocative re-examination of the conviction of Charles Ingram for cheating on Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?Quiz ‘highlights the dangerous blending of entertainment, politics and justice today.’ (Sunday Times). Quiz opens on 10 April 2018, with previews from 31 March, and runs for a strictly limited London season until 16 June.

Daniel Evans’ production marks the second London transfer for Chichester Festival Theatre – and the first to the West End – under the tenure of Daniel Evans as Artistic Director and Rachel Tackley as Executive Director.

James Graham commented, “Being given the chance to share Quiz with more people – and with the opportunity to develop and push our gameshow-meets-theatre concept even further – is beyond exciting for all of us.

“I would never have imagined years ago I’d get a chance to put any of my new plays into the West End. So to be able to return so quickly to the Noël Coward – which has been the happiest of homes for Labour of Love – feels surprising, and properly humbling to have the trust, belief, and support in the show from our producers, the amazing Daniel Evans, and the team of actors and creators who help me tell this gobsmacking story of the so-called Coughing Major and the most successful game show of all time.”

Daniel Evans said today, “It’s been an enormous privilege to have presented James Graham’s Quiz as part of our inaugural season at Chichester.  James is an exceptional writer with a knack for examining our recent history through an alternative lens. We’re thrilled to be able to revisit the production for the West End, and share Chichester’s work with a wider audience.”

James Graham’s theatre work includes Labour of Love (Noël Coward Theatre), Ink (Almeida Theatre and Duke of York’s Theatre – nominated for Best Play at the Evening Standard Theatre Awards), This House (National Theatre – Olivier Award nomination for Best New Play, and Garrick Theatre – Olivier Award nomination for Best Revival),Monster Raving Loony (Theatre Royal Plymouth and Soho Theatre), The Vote (Donmar Warehouse, broadcast live on More4 on election night and nominated for Best Live Event at the BAFTA TV awards), The Angry Brigade (Theatre Royal Plymouth and Paines Plough), the Broadway musical Finding Neverland, written with Gary Barlow and Eliot Kennedy, Privacy (Donmar Warehouse), The Man (Finborough Theatre and on tour), The Whisky Taster (Bush Theatre) and Tory Boyz (Soho Theatre). As Writer in Residence at the Finborough Theatre his plays include Albert’s Boy, Eden’s Empire and Sons of York. His television writing includes political drama Coalition (Channel 4), Prisoner’s Wives (BBC1) and Caught in a Trap (ITV1). His first feature film X+Y was released in 2015 after being selected at the Toronto International Film Festival and London Film Festival, winner of the Writer’s Guild Award for Best Debut Screenplay. His forthcoming work includes The Culture – A Farce in Two Acts (Hull Truck as part of Hull UK City of Culture 2017), and the film Gypsy Boy.

Artistic Director of Chichester Festival Theatre Daniel Evans directs. His work for the company includes Forty Years On and Fiddler on the Roof. He was previously Artistic Director of Sheffield Theatres, where he directed Flowers for Mrs Harris,  Show Boat (also West End), The EffectAnything Goes (also UK tour), The Sheffield Mysteries, Oliver! (Best Musical Production, WhatsOnStage Awards 2015), This Is My Family (UK Theatre Award for Best Musical Production – also on tour), The Full Monty (UK Theatre Award for Best Touring Production – also national tour and West End), My Fair Lady (Best Musical ProductionWhatsOnStage Awards 2014),Macbeth, OthelloRacing Demon as part of The David Hare Season, and An Enemy of the People – the opening production of his inaugural season. He also recently directed American Buffalo in the West End. As an actor, his work for Sheffield Theatres includes Company, The Pride, Cloud Nine and The Tempest. An award-winning actor and director, Evans’ work includes Sunday in the Park with George (Menier Chocolate Factory, Wyndham’s Theatre and Broadway) – a role for which he won the Olivier Award for Best Actor in a Musical (his second Olivier Award, the first being for Merrily We Roll Along in 2001) and a Tony Award nomination.  His extensive credits include work with the Donmar Warehouse, RSC, Royal Court Theatre and National Theatre.  Evans is a Fellow of the Guildhall School of Music and Drama.

Quiz is a fictional imagination based on real events which took place in 2001 following an episode of Who Wants To Be A Millionaire? It is not in any way connected with the makers of the programme or any of the individuals portrayed.

Quiz                                                                                                                                                          LISTINGS

Noël Coward Theatre

St Martin’s Lane, London WC2H 9LX

www.quiztheplay.com 

www.delfontmackintosh.co.uk

Twitter @quiztheplay

Box Office:                         0844 482 5141(no booking fee)

                                             Personal callers Mon-Sat 10am-curtain up (No booking fee)

                                             Telephone Mon-Sat 9am-8pm

31 March – 16 June

Press night: 10 April at 7pm

Performance times:

Monday – Saturday at 7.30pm

Saturday matinees at 2.30pm (from 7 April)

Wednesday matinees at 2.30pm (from 4 April, except 11 April)

Thursday matinee at 2:30pm on 12 April only

Seat Prices

£15, £27.50, £42.50 & £67.50 with £95 Premium (no booking fee when booked via DMT)

Day Seats

A limited number of tickets will be available daily from 10.30am, to be purchased in person, from the Box Office. Maximum 2 tickets per person. Excludes certain performances.

Standing

£15 tickets available on the day once the performance is sold out

Groups – subject to availability.

Groups 8+ at £45 valid Monday – Thursday

Tel for groups: 0844 482 5100 / Tel for schools: 0844 482 5165

Jason Bruges Studio unveils striking robotic light installation for Hull UK City of Culture 2017

Jason Bruges Studio’s latest kinetic installation opens in Hull today (Friday 1 December). Where Do We Go From Here? is the last major art commission of the year for Hull UK City of Culture 2017.

This striking multi-site installation in Hull’s Old Town features specially designed structures, some reaching more than 6m high. Plinths carry over 20 large re-purposed industrial robot arms fitted with light sources, mirrors, prisms and directional speakers.

With the night-time sky and the city’s architecture as a backdrop, the robots rise, swoop, curl, spin and reach out, accompanied by specially commissioned soundscapes, producing a new choreography of movement, light and sound. As they throw, reflect and exchange light, the viewer may detect personalities amongst the machines.

Where Do We Go From Here? takes the viewer to four different locations, illuminating the familiar, but also overlooked corners of Hull’s night-time streets, creating a new urban journey of discovery.

Bruges explains: “I’m interested in how art and technology combine to generate spectacle, entertainment and equally stimulate learning and new ideas. Digital interventions can invigorate our public spaces and shape how we behave within them. I wanted this installation to reflect both Hull’s past, as well as the transformation it is undergoing to become a leading centre for both culture and, through green energy, technological innovation. Art has an important role to play as a cultural catalyst and agent of change. In a world that is increasingly digital and where the role of robotics is more prominent in our daily lives, I’m interested in exploring the ways in which we can use this technology to enhance our public spaces.”

Through the interaction between light, architecture and the viewer, Where Do We Go From Here? harks back to Hull’s heritage as a leading centre for navigation in Europe, guiding people through the city’s night-time streets, and encouraging them to rediscover their urban environment. Bruges continues: “The robots act as ‘beacons’, giving people a way to navigate through the streets. It’s very much like walking round an urban art gallery; you can walk through in any order, you can take as long as you like, stay as long as you like, come on different days.”

With Where Do We Go From Here? Hull 2017 wants to start a conversation, about their city and its future, about society, art, culture and technology. There are opportunities to join in around Hull’s Old Town, as well as online, whilst local artists have been invited to produce creative responses to the work and to Hull’s City of Culture year.

Martin Green, Director of Hull UK City of Culture 2017, comments: “A key element of Hull’s year as UK City of Culture has been the use of technology, to tell stories and to show the city in new ways. In Where do we go from here? Jason Bruges has produced a striking artwork across four locations in the historic heart of the Old Town. Each has its own atmosphere, sometimes playful, sometimes ethereal, sometimes contemplative. As we approach the end of this incredible year, it takes us into 2018 and as we look ahead to the future, asks a key question for our times, one we hope will get people thinking.”

Where Do We Go from Here? is supported by Arts Council England and Spirit of 2012.

Where Do We Go from Here? helps kick off Substance, a series of events, installations and provocations taking place in the first week of December celebrating and reflecting on Hull and the North as a cultural powerhouse for the nation. More details about Substance will be announced shortly.

Where Do We Go From Here? – LOCATIONS

1/ Beverley Gate

The Gatekeepers

Marking Beverley Gate, the historic entrance to the city, now Hull’s Old Town, the six gatekeeper robots have been designed to draw in visitors with light signals close to the waters of Princes Quay and visible from Queen Victoria Square and Whitefriargate. This installation was designed specifically for this location, because of its historical significance.

Taking inspiration from navigation beacons and maritime signalling devices, the robots are a modern interpretation of them, which communicate and act as an entrance to the other installations around the Old Town.

2/ Trinity Square

An Inquisitive Acquaintance 

Trinity Square has historically been an important public space in Hull’s Old Town and has recently been extensively redeveloped, enhancing it as a key destination in the heart of the city. The nine robots here present a choreographed performance composed of light and sound, which is focused at the audience.

It is a playful encounter that encourages the viewer to explore the relationship between the light and sound, the square’s reflecting pools and the architecture around it. You are encouraged to pass between the plinths and ponder the question: Where do we go from here?

3/ Museum Gardens at Streetlife Museum

Collaboration 

In the garden setting of the Streetlife Museum, five robots awaken from their old factory mode to perform together and demonstrate intelligence through collaboration.  The robots will pass light beams between each other and form large moving objects in space. This piece is fast and dynamic and is best viewed from a distance.

4/ Wilberforce House

Conversation

Hidden behind the walls of the enclosed garden at the entrance to Wilberforce House, a curious conversation between a robot and Wilberforce plays out.  Peeking through the gate, or catching glimpses of the robot revealing itself above the wall, the audience can observe the gestural animation that is created through light and shadow. At a site of historical significance, to Hull and the nation, this reflective piece asks the question: Where do we go from here?