Brian Logan, Camden People’s Theatre Interview: “it seems the stars are aligning nicely for people who make performance in unexpected ways.”
Camden People’s Theatre is a performance space in a former pub, with a dynamic programme supporting new writing and innovative productions.
I had a chat-slash-interview with Brian Logan, CTP’s Artistic Director.
Here’s how it unfolded…
Hello Brian. Camden’s People Theatre is very good isn’t it.
Hello Carl. Thanks for saying so. We try to be very good: I’m glad to hear you think we’re succeeding.
With the way the industry’s changing, do you worry about the future for unconventional theatre makers?
I don’t worry too much about the future of unconventional theatre-makers. I think today’s unconventional theatre-makers are tomorrow’s influential and often (by then) mainstream artists. I look around CPT at a generation of playful but dedicated innovators who’re more resourceful than my generation ever seemed to be, and they fill me mainly with hope. And delight.
I also think one of the most significant changes in the industry, or the culture, over the last decade has been the mainstream’s adoption of what used to feel like unconventional ways of doing things. The kind of leftfield, hyper-creative, non-hierarchical, bloody-minded theatre-making habits that CPT has always championed are now commonplace in organisations that used to be the sole preserve of, ahem, new writing and Oxbridge-educated directors. So to me it seems the stars are aligning nicely for people who make performance in unexpected ways.
I do worry, it’s true, about where in London these artists are going to live. I do worry about how they’ll support themselves – although we’re here to help with that in whatever way we can. But I also see plenty to be optimistic about.
Tell us about SPRINT Festival?
It’s London’s biggest and best established carnival of new and unusual theatre. It started in 1997 and this is its twentieth incarnation, which I think is pretty extraordinary. Unlike the other festivals we present at CPT, there’s no theme. It’s just a concentrated, adrenaline-charged shot of what we do year-round, which is support and present the most imaginative, provoking and unpredictable new theatre we can find, usually made by artists at the start of their careers, often engaged with critical questions about how we live now. The Sprint festival is always lively. It’s programmed as democratically as possible – we invite applications from as wide a range of artists as we can. Its shows burst out of our theatre space and into other nooks of our building, and beyond. Visit on any night and we hope you’ll leave with a quickened pulse and a vivid sense of what’s happening right now on theatre’s cutting edge.
As for this year’s Sprint in particular, it’s got a satisfying mix of CPT rookies, old friends, hard-hitting shows, playful diversions and lots else besides. We’ve got the award-winning Atresbandes with their new show Locus Amoenus, the cult Kings of England maverick Simon Bowes with Ding and Sich, and Conrad Murray – star of last year’s CPT hit No Milk for the Foxes – with his council estate-set hiphop theatre piece DenMarked. We’ve got the first ever performance of the winner of our inaugural People’s Theatre Award, Emily Lim and Gameshow’s Grown Up, we’ve got the five brand new projects emerging from our unique Starting Blocks artist support scheme and we have a whole new Sprint strand, called Freshers, showcasing new student and graduate work. So: it’s exciting, and way too sprawling to encapsulate here.
How would you describe your perspective on life?
I’ve never been asked nor ever considered an answer to that before. I think I have lots of different perspectives depending what aspect of life I’m currently engaging with. I hope I’m good-humoured, optimistic and egalitarian, but my family, colleagues and arch-enemies may well say otherwise.
Bloody hell. Your ambitious devised production ‘This Is Private Property’ was a bit of a fiasco. What are your thoughts on how it was received by critics?
I’m curious to know why you consider it a fiasco, Carl. Did you see it? It handsomely outstripped its box-office targets, engaged an audience who hadn’t been to CPT before, and – judging by our feedback forms and the cast’s conversations with those audiences – was very much appreciated by many of the people who saw it.
As for the reviews, I thought – as usual – that some of them were on the money, and with some of them, I strongly disagreed. Politically and in terms of their aesthetic assumptions. Obviously, we’d have loved everyone to like the show. But it wasn’t made to appeal to the cultural cognoscenti, it was made to engage with a wider audience, including those living at the sharp end of the housing crisis. Those are different constituencies with sometimes contrasting values and tastes. So – while nobody enjoys getting bad reviews – we were happy to get good reviews as well, and very pleased in general with how the production was received.
I didn’t see it sadly… What is your advice for emerging artists in their late 20s and early 30s?
It depends where they’re at in their career, what they’re working on, what kind of help (if any) they’re asking CPT for. We definitely don’t have a one-size-fits-all artist support thing happening here. Supporting artists is the most important thing we do here, and it’s very important to us that we tailor that support to what any given artist or company needs at a particular time.
What’s the best part of your job?
There’s lots that’s good about my job. Seeing great theatre (for free!). Being in a position to help super-smart and talented artists make their work – and being personally inspired & refreshed by their fearlessness and their new ways of seeing and doing things. Not having to travel at rush hour. Working with my fab colleagues Amber and Anna. The single best thing is the feeling of being at CPT on one of our buzzy festival nights, when the whole place crackles and hums with artists meeting audiences meeting artists, all having new conversations about significant things. And drinking, and feeling alive. It’s a thrill to feel that in some way we’ve helped make that happen.
Is there anything that you’d like redacted?
D’you mean from the answers above? Nope. Publish and be damned.
Bye bye (!)
And that, ladies and gents, is where our chat ended.
Sprint Festival features adventurous theatre from across the UK and beyond and runs from Tuesday 2 – Saturday 26 March.