Interview Artistic Director Scott Ellis, N16: ‘The challenge for N16 is to make consistently high standard so that people know whatever they watch is going to be good.”

Scott Ellis

Scott Ellis

N16 is a South London fringe venue in Balham. Artistic director and actor Scott Ellis was recently promoted to artistic director, replacing Jamie Eastlake, who founded the company.

‘FYI’ Eastlake has become executive director of the Balham theatre, N16 has also appointed Courtney Larkin as an associate director.

Theatre N16 is a trailblazing company, dedicated to creating a creative hub where new and existing works can be explored and pushed into new realms. Theatre N16 are proud of their commitment to the welfare of creatives, operating under a Equity Fringe Agreement. This promoting and nurturing of talent means that Theatre N16 is a bastion for development within the context of a society in which the arts are increasingly struggling to stay afloat, so well done everyone.

I thought that now would be a good a time as any to meet with Scott and see how he is getting on.

Congratulations on your new job, how is it going? How many emails have you had?
I’m the new artistic director of N16 – I’ve been doing the job for a week- I’ve answered a lot of emails this week. Maybe 200 ?

You live on a boat don’t you.
I’m very poor. I like the simple life – It’s a narrow boat – me and my girlfriend decided that’s cool – we both work in theatre, there’s no chance of us being able to buy anywhere. The most amazing thing about living on a boat is that you have to move the boat every two weeks. I rarely take a day off but once move day is put in the diary, I have to sit and drive 4mph which is very relaxing. At the moment, we don’t have any hot water which is challenging.

Blimey. You seem like an all-round good guy, is that a fair assessment?
I don’t know if it’s the first phrase I’d use to describe myself…

Right you are. What are your priorities going forward?
My background is classical theatre. I like theatre that is about the writing. Good writing, good directing good acting. Not flashy. So, I’d like to transfer that to working with new writers. I want to create theatre that is audience focussed.

When was the last time you went to the theatre?
Oh, I was at the press night of 42nd St. It’s not the type of theatre I’d want to make but I had a great time.

What do you think the biggest challenges of running a venue like N16 in 2017 forward are?
It is very difficult for Fringe theatres to get an audience and build a community around the venue. It takes time; the challenge for N16 is to make consistently high standard so that people know whatever they watch is going to be good. Maintaining and improving that reputation is important.

Is it easier to tackle diversity when you are working at fringe level?
It’s an extension of what I do. I run a gender-blind touring Shakespeare company -what my company does is essentially take a classic text and bring a fresh and unbiased approach to it. It’s something I really care about. I think the race casting issue is a really difficult one for fringe theatre – there is a real issue about there not being enough representation on stage. It’s hard casting for the fringe. The challenge is how do you make sure you put the right representation on stage but also make sure the best person gets the job. It’s more a complex thing than just hitting quotas.

Good opportunity to make his mark– reverse snobbery
One that is confirmed is Andy Maddocks – he did a play – HE(art) at our place and the Me Plays and the We Plays and he is a phenomenal writer – we have him coming back as part of my first season.

Is there anyone you work with you’d like to give a shout out to?
I’ve got the most brilliant assistant in the world – Courtney Larkin – she’s one of our associate directors – she basically does my job in my time off.

What did you think of The Harry Potter Play winning all the Olivier awards? It can’t be a good thing for theatre, can it?
I haven’t seen it. My big bug bear is filmed theatre -that gets my goat. The problem is that people won’t go and see theatre unless it’s got Doctor Who in it. It’s really killing touring theatre. If they are subsidised by the government they shouldn’t be getting paid,  they should put some money back into touring theatre.
Young audiences around the country are not getting the opportunity to see live theatre; seeing it on screen is not a good enough substitute.

What is your favourite theatre in London?
I love the Globe – it is the theatre that I first fell in love with.