Date: January 2013
Location: Unicorn Theatre
Interviewer: Susan Croft with contributions from Tony Coult
Technicians: Susan Croft and Tony Coult
Topics List: Susan Croft
Video 1 – 01:54:28
00:00:00 Early Years . Born in Saltburn North Yorkshire. Lived Carlin Howe nearby, working class village. His Dad was vicar of village. Father was a vicar, mother a housewife, 2 sisters. Moved when he was 6 to Rotherham. Were there for about 10 years, Mum became a teacher during that time. DJ went to local primary school- Wellbeck – most of his friends were sons of miners and steelworkers. Later he was sent to a prep school and at 11 got a scholarship to a public school called Russell.
In 1967 went to study French, English and German but changed and graduated in 1970 with a degree in politics at Sheffield University where he was involved in theatre productions. Time was height of student activism.
00:02:40 After University – Bretton Hall. Became a management trainee in an engineering firm for no good reason and after 6 months couldn’t stand it and became teacher for a year and a half – untrained and in a difficult school. Offered a place at Bretton Hall to do a PGCE. Drama had always been his hobby – had done lots of plays at university, mostly acting. Always his passion.
00:04:00 Formation of theatre company. Formed a theatre company with a group of other people, all relatively mature. TIE movement was burgeoning then and it seemed possible they might get taken on professionally.
Tony Coult (TCo): Were there particular teachers who were influential at Bretton?
DJ: John Hodgson (JH) in his own strange way, but the main thing about Bretton was it was a very practical course – we did lots of projects. Teaching practice was devising projects exploring social topics e.g. on environment and waste, projects about families. They were all very excited by this. Not seeing much of what TIE was around though we knew the Leeds TIE company and were aware of other work going on. JH supportive of company plan but said they would need to put together a brochure and find a showcase. In June 1973 there was a showcase at the Cockpit Theatre in London. They put together brochure contacted local LEA [London Education Authority] Drama Advisors and did a play about David Oluwale–a famous  case of a tramp in Leeds who was beaten to death by the [racist] police. Well-received and 3 local authorities / theatres offered them a job as a team. Leeds, Greenwich, Coventry, Cockpit, Watford etc would have been there. Before M6 were started.
00:08:13 Other company members. Chris Vine (CV) had been to Cambridge and worked for 2 years with a company called Robert Cooper – commercial children’s touring company, Richard Pinner (RP) had done Eng and Hist at Kent and wanted to be a writer, Colin Hicks (CH) had done a degree in French and worked in France as a tutor for 2 years but passion was drama, Carol Leader (CL), graduate from York who wanted to be a professional actress. They felt they had enough in common and enough different skills and experience to make a go of it.
Three interested authorities were Barking/ Dagenham drama adviser Chris Day offered the opportunity of taking over the 6th form block as grade 3 teachers to run Drama and do TIE in spare time, Haringey were trying to set up a company and were keen but it didn’t come to anything. Peterborough were setting up with Key Theatre with mad inspirational Welsh director Terry Palmer (TP) but also a very good area drama adviser John Boylan (JB) and they wanted a resident TIE company.
Susan Croft (SC): Was there an ACGB [Arts Council] requirement that theatres do a certain amount for young people? DJ: Not sure about ACGB but the idea at the time was that there should be a TIE company attached to every rep and any town of any size. Time of enthusiasm and growth. Also the Local authorities keen: no money initially except from them.
00:11:40 First year as Key Perspectives. Huntingdon (later part of Cambridgeshire) gave them a grant for 6 months. Paid Equity rates – £18 a week at the time – not a lot. They created a whole range of shows, projects, workshop. We woul talk with JB about what he saw as needed and with TP about the theatre’s needs. It was a pot pourri. First show was version of the harlequinade for infants and juniors: CV as Harlequin, CL as Columbine, CH as silent pierrot, RP – old man character, DJ as bluff loud Captain. Toured for c10 weeks all over Huntingdonshire. That established us with schools. Then Christmas show for 3-7 year-olds. Theatre was doing Brian Way’s Pinnochio for families and wanted us to do a show for littlies: Once Upon a Time – storytelling show they devised. All the schools they’d been out to came back to see it. Devising process of 2-3 weeks. Second term we did tailor-made workshops for schools – tell us a theme and we’ll come and do it – mad! One-day TIE workshop on any theme – 1 or 2 days to prepare/devise it – got us established with specific keen schools. Third term: Just Like That, show for broad age range about lion and magician, clockwork soldier and an elm tree, who are friends on a journey to get back lion’s roar stolen by Grimble, for age 5-11. Supporting mainhouse, doing workshops, and touring TIE shows. Workshop themes included bullying, local issues, road safety (paid by police). Trying to establish work and ourselves in the community and get to point where ACGB might fund us. End of year 1 they gave £15K – equivalent of £100K now + more money from LA. In year 2 we expanded: brought in Jane Cox (now on Emmerdale), Claire Grove (CG, became BBC producer) [died 2013] and Bill Mitchell (BM) as designer (went with DJ to Theatre Centre, then to Kneehigh, now running Wildworks)
00:19:00 Administration and directing plus more shows. No administrator. Done through Key Theatre – not effectively, especially in second year with more shows and 2 companies. TP directed or company did so in year 2 David did a lot of administration jobs inc. programming and also started directing. Company worked as a co-operative. DJ directed second Christmas show Twice Upon a Time. Hard to do as part of group of 5 with strong equal voices and also taking outside role – exciting but hard. Resistant to single voice. RP left after 2 years to freelance as writer. CL got a job on Playschool [children’s TV programme 1964-88] Then DJ left after 2 and a half years. Living with CL in London. CH and CV left 2 years later. New company came in.
TCo: asks about the show Legend by RP – about Richard III. DJ say he did devised show on Richard III with BM and Lesley – devised. Maybe there was another show. Last show RP did: they devised and he wrote it up and edited was Nothing to Lose about Fenland Riots, 1790. RP of the 5 least wanted to act. About strolling players and a man on the run enters and forces them at knifepoint to tell the story. Great little show, but couple of times he dropped the knife…
SC mentions RP’s later report Contract in Writing on relationship between writers and companies in TIE and community theatre.
00:24:50 SCYPT. End of first year went to the National TIE conference in Leeds, set up by Roger Chapman of Leeds TIE. Key Perspectives went along as bright new kids on the block, more established companies also there. Political idealism and desire to form an organisation. Lots of idealism and now funding until offered support from Gulbenkian. Set up committee of 5, inc.DJ, which set up SCYPT (Standing Conference of Young People’s Theatre) starting in 1975 which was then broadly social democratic. Later became a platform for various political views and there were splits – hard to hold together. Brief was to hold a national conference twice annually – one talking shop, one inc showcase. SCYPT journal started later. Influence of Pam Schweitzer (PS) – freelance journalist with strong interest in TIE, very good contacts esp. with Times Ed. She persuaded Methuen to do a Directory of TIE companies. Very supportive. Later edited 3 play collections.
00:29:32 Other Shows. In year 2 decided to do a horror play. CG wanted to do story in which Chinese prince is imprisoned with a rat. Princess eventually rescues him but is it too late… CG bought a live rat and ended up keeping it as a pet for next 2 years: Bert – sort of company mascot. Broken Legend discussed. Conflict: model structure of working – boss, worker, teacher, wife, son, all inter-related included splitting into 5 groups as friends and supporters of each – each had a problem. Played scenes and then developed them using the kids’ ideas. Then each character went to another group. Then brought all back together and they had to decide what was the answer. Generally there was no answer. PS loved it – it became a model structure in the same way that some of Coventry TIE’s did or GYPT with Polly, the All-Action Dolly. Doll starts getting naughty and they have to figure out how to control it. TC asks about models – were they from theorists e.g. Brecht, Brian Way, Dorothy Heathcote. Were any of those influences? JH an influence, they were aware of DH and Gavin Bolton, DJ had done workshops. Hot-seating the main approach becoming prevalent – students interrogate characters at end. Splitting audiences into groups before, during, after, asking questions, putting them in role. No clear available structures. Long before Forum Theatre. Lots of putting kids in role as supporters. All working out our own models – pre-SCYPT where they started to share approaches.
SC: Identity as Company?
The upstart, mouthy one. All equal. No structure. No hierarchy. That helped up their status quickly individually and collectively. When DJ left it was because the next step for me would be to run my own company. Staying in the collective would be frustrating for him or them. Lots of bright people to follow e.g. TG [Tony Gouveia?], also Lottie [Charlotte West-Oram]
00:38:06 Design approach. Initially very simple – blocks, things we made ourselves. When in the Theatre there was more design, but basic. Needed a design eye – CV and RP went to look at Design School showcases at end of year 1 – came back with shortlist and we interviewed them and chose BM, who had the concept of designer as visual director. He joined team and introduced minimalism – philosophy from Richard Negri at Wimbledon School of Art. If the process after 3 weeks leads to just a chair, then fine if it’s the right chair. He designed RIII show with a big block of wood which they carried round – too heavy – he learnt on the job. Creating things out of things. A mop could be a horse. TCo: BM’s philosophy as TCo remembers was to involve actors in devising settings – was that already happening? DJ: With us lot he would not have had any choice. He wanted to work that way – which is why we picked him as team member.
00:41:36 Meeting Brian Way. Early 1976, DJ persuaded the Arts Council to give him an actor’s grant career skills development for four or five months to look at all the TIE and children’s theatre companies he could round the country. Theatre Centre was the biggest company in the country, but was considered old fashioned, Brian Way (BW) dictatorship, seen negatively. DJ found BW quite a character –sat for half a day with him in his office while BW talked, plus went on the road and saw 2 shows and was very pleasantly surprised. Scripts tho 10 years-old and old-fashioned, but actors’ commitment and the truthfulness of work was very high quality.
BW’s father a colonial governor in Jamaica and BW a larger-than-life character. He’d decided to leave Theatre Centre after 20-odd years and had become an international celebrity, giving master classes. Lot of people scared of him but DJ thought he was good fun. BW was stage manager in the 40s at the Old Vic and a conscientious objector in the war and got interested in theatre and started a company in Bristol. BW’s sense of theatre’s failure to involve children properly that led to his work [see Brian Way page] going into schools, creating theatre in the round and by creating simple truthful work including audience participation making sounds, supporting characters. In TC the actors were generally people straight from drama school getting an equity cards. They’d rehearse two shows 50 minutes long over two weeks then tour them for 10 weeks, four shows a day, relentless.
00:48:25 Taking over Theatre Centre. DJ applied when job advertised in July 1976. Was interviewed twice in August. Laurence Harbottle (LH) was Chair who suggested DJ work shadow BW for 2 weeks which he did and got the job. Worked as joint Artistic Director with BW for 6 months from Oct to Apr 1977 when he officially left. ‘It was Brian’s baby for 25 years and the letting go process is very difficult’ Mr Grump and the Clown – a script of BW’s that DJ liked they put out for small children in his standard way. Travelling everywhere. DJ commissioned a new play by Brian Hales, writing for the Unicorn and for Dr Who with science fiction feel but about Victorian times and youth, plus did A Taste of Honey for secondary schools. BW came back to see the shows at the end of the first term, autumn 1977 – he didn’t like DJ’s production but liked Roger Watkins (formerly BW’s assistant) and they had a row, I said ‘I do have to change things and move the material forward because that’s what people want and need – they want more of the TIE content but I will try and keep the form, the intention and the passion and the basic core function of the company which is national touring and the children are the priority’. BW only came back to see another show 3 or 4 years after that. Board were supportive esp. LH
Based in West End Lane, NW6 – in a corner shop with 2 floors. Rehearsing in churches and community halls round Harlesden where they were based before. 2 offices in the shop; vans were kept on the road, everything done really leanly to get as much work out to children. Actors, on Equity minimum, with low touring allowances, rarely stayed more than a term because they were too exhausted.
00:56:32 The first three years. His ten and a half years at Theatre Centre splits into three sections. First 3 years DJ was trying to ensure funding continued, that local authority saw we were building in TIE sensibility and to consolidate a team of people to work with him and stay for a length of time. Move towards more thematic work –brought in TIE writers e.g. Michael Maynard (MM), Carol – use the BW model to do more issue-based work. MM did a show about bullying called Witch Play, Carol did infant show about pollution cf David Holman’s Drink the Mercury. DJ writing infant shows did one about robots in 100 years time taking over the world plus a version of the Pied Piper with Maggie Thatcher as the mayor. Shows based on 4 actors. Brought in new writers – ACGB Council had a v good new writers’ scheme would pay for writer for six months. Brought in people like Charles Way, then a new writer. Significant turning point was bringing in David Holman (DH) ex-Coventry Belgrade with David Pammenter and Sue Johnston, then at M6 and Stratford East under Clare Venables, until that company fell apart. Became resident writer from 1978, -superb, v. experienced. First show Plague 78 -about pollution, pesticides and rural communities. Wrote most plays 1979-1982 and helped develop house style. Later took over infant shows, having been wary. Brought in new directors – Roger Watkins stayed – plus Geoff Bullen. Patrick Lloyd Mansfield joined as administrator from Peterborough. Built up a really good team and moved the work to become less participatory – still inclusive, still mainly in the round, but much more hard-hitting.
In 1979 DH wrote a very powerful play about Argentina about fascism –first time they were seen by other TIE companies as having a clear political purpose, opening up the real world to people – did a whole year of Third World themes inc. work about the Inuit, the actual situation in the Arctic -brought in a anthropologist Hugh Brody to work with company on that for a year.
By 1981 work was of calibre of major TIE groups. House style was naturalistic, about young people and seeing the world from young people’s eyes, with a contact character audiences followed and empathised with, conflict, going on journeys, solving problems. DH’s Drink the Mercury, 1973, is a about people with a problem who go on a journey to try and solve it. Of two or three classic structures BW had – one is cf. The Wizard of Oz – people get together to go on a journey and face conflicts, another people compete to solve a problem.
01:06:21 Organisational Issues. Massive problems initially. DJ wanted to introduce an equal wage policy but at Theatre Centre the director and administrator were paid about three times as much as others and actors were on minimum. ILEA were planning to cut the company’s money but in 1978/1979 there was growing money for this sort of work in local authorities, including London. There was Inner City Partnerships money – three-year plans where you could get £100,000 a year for new projects. TC set up a relationship with Islington, with the Director of Education, Roy [?] gave them a school building to rehearse in that was also a youth centre solving rehearsal problems very quickly. He backed TC for Inner City Partnership so in addition to the ACGB and local authorities money TC got this extra lump of money which they amalgamated the money. DJ and the administrator halved their wages and equalised everyone’s wages (original admin left at that point). That allowed people like DH and experienced designers to feel they could join. Started doing three shows a day, cut the length of tours and went down to two shows a day, increased rehearsal time and had new writing coming in. Job became similar to a TIE team where show is rehearsed for four weeks, toured for four weeks, have a half term, tour for five weeks, have a three-week paid holiday. People started to stay. Friends, colleagues from the other companies were getting very interested in the work so over the first three years we built up a permanent company –had three companies, two touring and one based in London and they’d rotate and then went to two companies.
Performers included Ian Bowler, Kika Miralees, Chris Larner. Nick Dunning, Juliet Stephenson started with us in first 2 years. Lots of people from other TIE companies started to join.
TCo asks about influence of feminism, gay liberation movements. Is it premature to ask about these now? DJ sees that as the third period or period 2-3.
In first period people like Anne Engel (ex-Women’s Theatre Group) came for 2 tours as an actor. TC were friends with Oval House, WTG, Monstrous Regiment as they were growing up. Drew Griffiths who set up Gay Sweatshop was an actor with company in Peterborough and DJ was living nearby in London. Increasingly connected with London fringe and growing groups. Bubble another one. Connections – they would see each others’ work in early years.
By 1980/81 company very solid, had been the centre for SCYPT for a year.
Consolidated nationally but cuts in education and theatre were starting to happen at this time, affecting drama advisors and teams esp. in Glamorgan, Cheshire, Cornwall. Others like Waltham Forest, Notts, Wakefield were building work and relationships – taking workshops, not just tours. TC Education officer would go out and do follow-up with notes and resources for teachers – in depth work like TIE were doing, not just productions
01:15:23 Second phase. Work continues plus invited to do work abroad – exchanges and visits – Canada, Roger Chapman invited them to Australia – director exchange – DH went over in 1982, then spent 2 years between the 2 countries. Mad tour to Malta, to help set up TIE , Cyprus. Involved in ASSITEJ [TYA], international children’s theatre organisation – started in 50s, BW was involved.
Extra funding from Islington led to commitment to producing more work in Islington, less touring. Based first in an Islington youth centre off Upper Street for year and a half at first, then moved for free to big space in the successful Hanover School [Noel Road] in 1982 – perfect set-up, office space, rehearsal space, design space, worked with the school and teachers on try-out basis, got feedback.
1982-3: DJ works 6 months in Hong Kong with Chung Ying Theatre Company set up by Glen Walford – sort of sabbatical. Did great version of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight (DH). DJ felt they were getting diffuse and that nuclear issues were vital–set up a year’s peace project in 1982 — massively successful –six new shows toured schools and theatres. Got extra funding from the GLC (Ken Livingstone) raised TC profile – DH’s very successful Peacemaker, African-Caribbean show Bunkers [Jamal Ali] about a mad dictator, and DH’s 1983 (about cruise missiles) – became more focused and political: ‘We were there to ask questions not to supply answers.’ Much of TIE movement more didactic – splits. Work very controversial at height of anti-Cruise, anti-Trident protests: Norman Tebbit tried to get us banned in Waltham Forest where TC performed at mini-festivals, and put out a bulletin that made national newspaper headlines trying to persuade parents to stop their children seeing plays. Press supported TC: shows were about things like Hiroshima – plus local authorities and Arts Council backed company to the hilt and the government had to retrench.
TC had less to do with SCYPT at this time till maybe 1984-5 – arguments over who was a ‘real’ socialist or not. Some people thought TC wasn’t left-wing enough – seen as supporting Labour Party and therefore too right-wing .
TCo: Was [Augusto] Boal versus Heathcote a factor as educational theorists? Perhaps: GYPT [Greenwich YPT] picked up on Boal approach in early 80s. DJ worked with this with Chris in France – seen by some as reactionary – tokenistic! WRP [Workers’ Revolutionary Party] groups e.g under Geoff Gilham (GG) were very attached to Edward Bond. TC did DH’s play The Disappeared in 1979 about Argentina which opened the SCYPT conference. People were delighted except for GG who saw it as absolutely reactionary: ‘We were looking at a liberal view of social change rather than a revolutionary one… we felt that theatre can contribute to political change but theatre isn’t political change.’ Trotskyite view that you could close your company and lose funding – that was more revolutionary: TC could not go along with that.
01:28:45 Third Phase. 1983-84 looked at racism and a couple of shows about Miners’ Strike, linked with Perspectives company, doing similar work. Gwenda Hughes (GH), assistant director suggested we start up an all-women’s company (written, acted, designed, directed by women) as one of the two or three TC companies.
Prior to that Bryony Lavery had written, companies were often 3 women 2 men or vice versa. Influence of companies like Monstrous Regiment, Black Theatre Co-op. Second phase had included realisation that TC only had few black or Asian actors in the company – from DH. A problem, especially given London base. In one year they went from having none to have a majority as actors – by doing less work touring everywhere – consolidated in especially productive areas. Jamal Ali as writer, Tony Gouveia running workshops. By now also a company that is consciously mixed about half the company were gay or lesbian and people thought we should have– men, women, gay, straight with a perspective on sexuality. Nona Shepphard started writing and directing shows with us – anti-racist, anti-apartheid shows – and then– feminist plays. Bryony and Nona produced Over and Out and Getting Through which toured together.
SC: Was this fairly amicable? In some companies there was controversy over white male or heterosexual domination.
Once TC was operating with 20-odd people pretty collectively so it was generally an organic evolution. Weekly company meetings. Also admin team meetings. Trying to keep roles clear – not about status but specialism – problem when everyone is an expert on everything – gets in the way of function..
Also did work on Union areas.
In 1986 Noel Greig joined and they decided to do a series of shows about sexuality awareness. Noel wrote a junior show Laughter from the Other Side about an Asian boy in love with a white boy. Had just done Best of Friends with Perspectives.
Jackie Kay wrote a show about a black woman telling her story about how she was a lesbian but had never come out.
Lot of very strong personalities, very feisty young black women, black guys and Asian artists. Plus old-timers like Bill and Sue. By early 1986 DJ decided he was exhausted and needed to stop so gave a year’s notice.
01:37:46 Twice Over. Big crunch six months later with Jackie Kay’s first play Twice Over for the Women’s Company. Half the women thought it was racist, half the company thought it was sexist, ‘a lot of the gay white members thought it was really important to do it, a lot of the straight black men thought we really shouldn’t do it and we stopped the company for a week and tried to sort it all out and in the end we never did the show’.
Advertised DJ’s post in the Autumn and appointed Libby Mason. Worked overlapping with DJ from start of 1987 for a term.
T Co asks about what was so troubling about the play: Didn’t help that DJ had handed in resignation, nor that it was JK’s first play, or Sallie Apprahamian, director, had never worked with Women’s Company before. Sandra Yip, Sandra [Vacciano] who went to Half Moon etc. They had been working with JK. It was rough. About a woman in her coffin, dying grandma tells her life story about being a lesbian who never came out. DJ thinks young performers in cast saw themselves reading this and thought they would be seen as making statement about all young black women. From gay perspective it was very important that it was about coming out and that over-rode other concerns. With Susumu’s Story all actors played Japanese. In Nona and Bryony plays men played women cleaners; Philip Tyler often played women’s parts. Here people couldn’t see beyond the page. Would have been controversial in schools at that time of Clause 28. Company had built up integrated casting for about five years and deliberately created a situation where everyone could be any race, any gender. This was cast according to race. ‘It got to a point when emotion was clouding any logic. We had meetings. Two people resigned. It was very sad. We had to pull back everything but I think it gave everyone a bit of a shock’
Instead GH came in and they put together Stamping, Singing and Shouting Home [by Lisa Evans]. Very sad.
Done a couple of years later by Nona for Gay Sweatshop for adults at the Drill Hall.
No-one batted an eyelid.
01:45:34 Mixed Company. SC asks about integration and mixed company and its reception. Noel’s Laughter from the Other Side about an Indian and an English boy growing up in India, becoming close friends. Angels played by 2 black women.
No problems in schools despite Clause 28. Tension between what Thatcher was doing and local authorities. 1987 onwards for next seven years – effects of Thatcherism, funding cuts made things much more difficult. DJ went freelance for 3 years, worked at Bretton Hall, set up festivals, then to Nottingham (Roundabout) – last bastion where Chairman of Education insisted on support.
1985 – ACGB conference at Warwick. TC opened it Under Exposure by Lisa Evans (LE) about anti-apartheid.
TCo: Was it a watershed moment?
Panel: GG, June Mitchell, DJ, Inspector of Education from B’ham. Divisions showed. Within a year, cuts in Islington following a period of growth and consolidation. They killed the GLC and ILEA by the end of the 80s – TC funding.
Advisors were made inspectors. Budgets eaten away.
01:51:54 Getting Through and play publication. DJ had set up try-outs – drafts – team would then work on it – maybe 3 at a time in June. Then shown to larger group. Writer would then develop it for Autumn. BL and NS had developed work around gender, themes of sexism over that period – Getting Through (musical) and Over and Out
[Informal discussion which can be heard on our audio recording: discussion of publication of plays – or lack of it. Problem of market especially with plays for cast of 5 when now schools want plays for young people to perform i.e. large groups. Discussion of archives – Theatre Centre should have all scripts and videos. BW scripts went to Bretton Hall.]
Video 1 ends 01:54:28
Video 2 00:35:25
00:00:00 Discussion of specific shows. SC asks about Under Exposure and other plays – internationalist themes.
Second phase especially late 70s into early 80s: TC addressing a range of themes – disability e.g. in Geoff Bullen’s play on a boy in a wheelchair wanting to go to a normal school Chairperson.
Earlier plays had been about themes but not working with those affected by theme e.g. race, with largely white company. This stage revisited those themes and changed that Under Exposure by LE was about women under apartheid, with largely black women cast.
1985 – started working with Graeae as partner company and then started bringing in disabled actors from 1984-5. When Chairperson was first done in 1978 it was not with Disabled actors. 4 years later GH revisited the show with Jag Plah in the part at Watford. Earlier no-one was consciously integrating black or disabled artists into mixed companies.
That period of the 80s created a really positive integration across race, gender, sexuality, disability.
Not a huge issue. DH writes from kid-in-the-street perspective. Most plays were about working class kids, whereas BW’s plays were all about Kings and Queens and wizards. Most of company from university or drama school backgrounds but in the late 70s/early 80s the drama schools had much larger numbers of working class kids because the local authorities gave full grants to talented working class kids – since, this has changed drastically.
1984 season of anti-racist shows – DH wrote Frankie’s Friends in a weekend – set on a council estate playground with a gang, a bully, a foreign girl who is a gymnast and a refugee boy from Latin America. Design by BM who joined in 1982 –was a range of parallel bars. Company trained by a gym teacher and everyone was on roller skates. Integrated casting. Will Frankie stand up against the bullies? Done again at TC and then at Roundabout.
00:11:20 Getting Through Over and Out and play development. Parallel plays with same characters, central character very boyish and different and three other girls who are very conformist. She befriends a cleaner at school and contacts people in a parallel world who understand her problems. She’s a tomboy and doesn’t conform. Over and Out – same story but a fantasy set in a space-age universe (BM designed a huge tent). One done by the women’s company, one by the mixed company, usually in tandem. Workshop company would come and work with schools and teachers and look at gender relationships etc. Getting Through is a musical.
Did about 60 new plays while at TC – developed with him as dramaturg, later with DH or other writers
1986 Libby Mason took over. Noel stayed on as resident dramaturg when Libby took over.
00:15:24 Children’s Theatre Festivals. David went on to work with Riverside Studios to do a mini children’s theatre festival: Take Off. War British rep and Treasurer for ASSITEJ – meant to be a junior LIFT.
1988 did a second festival but still no funding. Went to Australia for a year. Not much money around. TIE seemed out of favour with Arts Council and local authorities – some companies like Action PIE, Harlow Theatre seen as destructive – at odds with ACGB and local authorities who saw them pushing a revolutionary political line – impacted on more moderate companies.
1990 ran a festival in Leeds for West Yorkshire Playhouse
No sustained national support for children’s theatre. Never allowed to build an annual festival
00:21:48 Later Work. Bretton Hall for 2 years. DJ then went to be Director of Roundabout in Nottingham– Chairman for 16 years – Fred Riddell who wanted children to have sustained support for access to / interest in theatre so they had an attached FE course.
FE was later separated from the company, because of government demands, so they set up an adult education dept. for education authority with a diploma course linked with RADA at Clarendon College. Nick Barter (ex-Unicorn) and Geoff Bullen were both at RADA. Reinvented Theatre Centre there.
Since then government has just squeezed resources.
Roundabout became much smaller – does one tour a year and have another name.
Theatre Centre probably does 2 or 3 a year.
ACE appointed him head of Year of the Artist. Then freelance.
Then spent 6 months and Head of Education at Birmingham Rep.
In 2003 set up Tangere Arts with partner Ava Hunt, with Arts Council funding, based in Derbyshire, to do workshops and shows in the Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire area e.g DH Lawrence’s The Fox in version by Stephen Lowe Noel Greig’s Hood in the Wood as one-man show. Noel became very ill and couldn’t see the show so Tangere brought it to London for three weeks in 2006. Have done three shows by Noel and doing The Rime of the Ancient Mariner now. Small-scale Gothic with live music.
Living life backwards – running biggest company in the country at 27 and at 64 running a small company with no funding from his back room. Fear of turning into BW after he’d stayed so long he was wholly identified with it.
The most important things about his experience?
‘You worked with writing, developing new projects like the integrated companies, working with disabled artists, developing black artists, keeping an equal wage policy going for 10 years’ – he’s tried to do that everywhere he could control it– issue of ownership, ‘trying to do the very best we can to move the work forward artistically and educationally but also to be inclusive and not to be didactic.’
Video 2 ends 00:35:25