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Clive Judd: ‘The minute you forget your audience as an active participate, in whatever live art context, whatever your discipline, that’s the minute you’ve got a corpse on your hands.’

The incoming Artistic Director of the Old Red Lion pub theatre talks us through the challenges of running a venue, his priorities going forward – and his favourite app.
The Old Red Lion Theatre Pub is one of London’s oldest and most beloved boozers. The London fringe has become a vital forum for new work and wildly creative ambitions.
Judd replaces Stewart Pringle, who is stepping down after three years in the post. Currently the venue’s literary manager, Judd has worked at the Old Red Lion for the past 10 months and directed shows for the theatre prior to his appointment.
Absolutely brilliant. Well done everyone. Let’s get started…

Clive Judd

Clive Judd

Hi Clive! Congratulations on your appointment as AD at Old Red Lion. What are you priorities going forward? 
Thanks, Carl.
It’s just starting to sink in now and I’m really looking forward to getting my head around the new year. We have a smashing, diverse programme of work lined up for the first half of 2017 which gives me the perfect platform to explore where I think we might be able to go during my time here.
I really want to give our work the widest possible reach, so I’m going to be seeking links with larger buildings and regional companies to test ways we can continue the life of projects outside of the walls of the ORL space. I will also be continuing to integrate our Literary Department into the function of my work, and offer this as a real, genuine support framework for anyone who presents work with us at the theatre.
One concern I do have is that I’ll be spending a good deal of time in the Box Office booth at the ORL which is frankly way to small to house my clumsy frame. Stewart took a photo of me in there the other day. I looked like Zoltar, the fortune-telling machine in BIG.
“You want a concessionary ticket?
Your wish is granted!”
Seriously though, I am over the moon to have been appointed. The place has so much history.
And I was appointed on the day my nephew Toby was born. It’s all really special to me!
You were the ORL literary manager prior to your appointment; what are your top 3 tips for creatives submitting new work? 
Firstly, it’s a proper, considered answer to the question, “What is your project?” Lyndsey Turner put this to us on the National Theatre Directors Course and I think it is  a) more difficult to answer than it seems and b) fundamental to the creation of quality work. We really want to know what the desire for the project or play or process is and why an audience needs to see that on stage right now. If that passion comes over, we can totally get on-board with it.
Secondly, it’s all about ambition. One of my favourite stories is the one about John Dexter reading Peter Shaffer’s ROYAL HUNT OF THE SUN for the first time and deciding the play was for him when he read the stage direction “They cross the andes.” Whilst we are aware of our size in practical terms and the finance it involves in staging any piece of work right now, it’s desperately important that ambition isn’t limited. We get a great deal of “it needs two actors, no props and a couple of chairs” kind of proposals, which need some consideration. If there is a real theatrical reasoning that underpins this, then great, but I get the sense that people think that because the project is viable immediately, practically speaking, that we’ll look more favourably on it.
The third is another really simple thing but it makes so much difference because we obviously get a lot of proposals. Read the submission guidelines. It takes, like, ten seconds to read these on our website or to Google the ORL. Find out what we are doing and how your work might sit with us.
 
Who would you trust more to babysit a child, Lyn Gardner or Michael Billington?
Whoever is free on the night in question.
I remember Michael’s review of HARRY POTTER AND THE CURSED CHILD because he mentioned he had taken his grandson to see it. I was really close to my grandad so it made me feel a real warmth towards him. He’d have some good stories too. Like when David Storey tried to knock him out on the staircase at the Royal Court…
And I’d imagine Lyn is a really cool babysitter. She’s written a great series of kids books too so, again, good stories!
Have you thought about the challenges of running a venue in 2017? 
For us and for anyone who will be working with us next year, it’s got to be money right? Or lack of it. It can feel completely restrictive and limiting. What is interesting though, is when artists push against restraint. Again, it’s about ambition and what we want to achieve collectively as theatre-makers right now. We can settle for two chairs or we can find a way to cross the Andes.
I think we need to make sure people laugh a bit too, you know. I think we take ourselves way too seriously sometimes. I think we can be serious about our work without taking too many detours through Douchebag City. I’ve driven into that ghost town myself way too many times…
 
If you could change one major historical event, what would it be?
Ah.
I can’t choose just one. That’s impossible.
What are your favourite apps?
I’m currently trying to learn some Italian using Duolingo. It’s fun, but the owl gives me a bollocking every day because I’m behind on my lessons.
I’m a thirty year old man and I’m getting a daily reprimand from a multilingual, cartoon owl!
Is there any such thing as bad art?
Probably. Maybe. It’s not healthy or helpful to think we can judge such things though.
You trained at the Watermill Theatre on the Regional Theatre Young Director Scheme and as part of the inaugural Foundry programme at the Birmingham REP. How important were those schemes to your development? 
Any professional engagement with a theatre is invaluable for a new director in the UK. A lot of learning is done on the fly, trial and error, through improvisation and a lot of reading, and of course a trustworthy network of friends and colleagues. Which I think is important too, right? But the ability to sit in other rooms, and I’m not just talking about rehearsal rooms, but in the marketing office or a planning meeting for a season of outreach work or lifting set in and out of the theatre for get-in/get-out’s, it trains you in the most wholesome way. It certainly makes the prospect of running a theatre for the first time a little less daunting than it might otherwise be…
It is important to me that those two buildings you mention were based outside of London. The problems they face vary slightly from a theatre consuming city like London but in all contexts, the people driving them are striving for the best in terms of quality.
It made me really appreciate the value of the audience too. The minute you forget your audience as an active participate, in whatever live art context, whatever your discipline, that’s the minute you’ve got a corpse on your hands.
Have you ever been missold PPI?
STOP.
What are your top five new plays of this year? 
Despite my rallying call for the regions, this is the first year that my theatre-going has been exclusively London-based. Which is really bad. But…
ESCAPED ALONE by Caryl Churchill was great and I’ll possibly see that again in the new year. Worth an hour of anyone’s time.
I thought YEN by Anna Jordan was superb too. The combination of Anna’s urban language with Ned Bennett’s visual dramaturgy. That’s good theatre for me.
This is possibly an unpopular choice but Wallace Shawn’s EVENING AT THE TALKHOUSE is a great play. And you will not convince me otherwise!
THE FLICK by Annie Baker wasn’t a new play, but it was new to the UK and it would actually feature in my all-time top 5. It’s a masterclass in the documentation of ordinary human life.
The last one (and this is fairly biased) would be John O’Donovan’s IF WE GOT SOME MORE COCAINE I COULD SHOW YOU HOW I LOVE YOU which was at the ORL in September. John is the real deal and he’s going to have a big 2017.
Would you rather be unusually tall or unusually short?
Short. Would solve the box office problem…
Is there anything you’d like to add? Cheers! 
Nothing other than lets all get after 2017 and give it a good old go.
And come and see our stuff whilst your doing that, of course…