Mary McCusker – actor, co-founder Monstrous Regiment
Gillian Hanna, Mary McCusker and Katrina Duncan (current directors of Monstrous Regiment) were interviewed in May 2106 by Jessica Higgs about their work with Monstrous Regiment. For full details about each production and those involved please refer to Gillian Hanna’s book A Collective Celebration (Nick Hern Books, 1991).
Topics covered in the interview include:
How Monstrous Regiment came about; Gillian Hanna via Belt & Braces; MaryMcCusker background; initial meeting; aims and ‘vision’; Scum (Chis Bond, Claire Luckham and company) and first company members, Linda Broughton, Chris Bowler.
Working as a Collective; how it operated; strengths and weaknesses; supporting writers & directors; responsibilities; changing nature of the Collective over the years. Finances; Arts Council and Gulbenkian funding; handling their money. How The Execution (Melissa Murray) and Gentlemen Prefer Blondes 1 affected the course of their work. Inclusion of music in the shows; Helen Glavin, Josefina Cupido.
Some examples of working processes: Floorshow (David Bradford, Caryl Churchill, Bryony Lavery, Michelene Wandor); Alarms (Susan Yankowitz); Vinegar Tom (Caryl Churchill).
Judy Chicago’s ‘The Dinner Party’; description of it; how it inspired the company to workshop an idea bringing a group of historical women together at a dinner party with Caryl Churchill – finding the human beyond the myth – eventually became Top Girls.
Chris Bowler’s interest in Florence Nightingale leading to her production Enslaved By Dreams; work on that and Points of Convergence; Angela Hopkins.
Support given by Ruth Marks at Arts Council. Childcare money. How their relationship with the Arts Council changed over the years; – towards the end not liking their Collective management; circumstances that led to the appointment of an Artistic Director: appointment of Clare Venables; various projects on offer at that time.
Never a separatist company. Work often developed out of circumstances; period of two-handers because of lack of finances; Bryony Lavery’s Calamity.
Important people in Monstrous Regiment – Sandy Bailey (administrator), Andrea Montag (designer), David Bradford (unsung hero, director, ideas man), Chris Bond (gave support after Clare Venables left).
Unfinished idea of 3 classic plays from a feminist perspective thought up by Lily Susan Todd and David Bradford; Teendreams (Lily Susan Todd and David Edgar) anecdote; full account of the storming of the stage during a performance of Time Gentlemen Please (Bryony Lavery) in Leeds.
Monstrous Regiment very much an actor-led company; wanted to be stretched as actors.
The Monstrous Regiment archive is at the V&A museum.