Hilary Westlake Topics List

Hilary Westlake Topics List taken from her interview with Susan Croft , 7th April 2008,
recorded by Loren Berlinka. Video and audio extracts by Jessica Higgs.

Personal background
Born Plymouth, Father in Navy
Moving around and changing schools
Year out working in Southampton University library
Helped in University theatre building sets for commercial tours
ASM at Oxford Playhouse
Wolverhampton weekly rep, plays like – Gilt and Gingerbread, The French Lesson
Timetable: Rehearse Act 1, Monday, Act 2, Tuesday, Act 3, Wednesday. Run through on Thursday, Friday and Saturday
All performing in the evenings & Wednesday matinee. Sunday off. Monday performance and start rehearsing new play at same time
Studied East 15
Affect of Naval background: moving around affected who you were, living in married quarters
Saw military parades, part of upbringing, liked Naval formality, used maths & parades in directing

East 15 and early political allegiances
Before East 15 became member of International Socialists
Thought E15 was a left wing school, but it wasn’t
Staff against her politics which were anti-apartheid, anti-Vietnam
Received ‘Joseph Stalin award for best ‘foreign actress’
1966-69, a hot time politically
Enjoyed training, did The Crucible without discussing McCarthy
Living in Snaresbrook during 1st year, then moved to Hampstead
Early theatre experiences and Inter-Action
Went to opera, Arts Lab – mixture of mainstream and experimental
Seeing Interaction’s other company made her turn her back on mainstream Work with Naftali Yavin at Interaction
First show was The Pit, description, performance followed by workshop with audience
The Journey – more politically related to what was happening in the world Performed Oval House which was divided into different areas, audience allowed in one at a time, description of piece
Christmas work in Post Office, International Socialist shop driver, living in Fulham in Peabody flat
The Lunatics Take Over the Asylum by Ramul Graham, took to Avignon.

La Mama and meeting David Gale
Audition process with London La Mama company
Meeting David Gale (DG) and Jenny Topper (JT)
Workshop was an audition from which London company emerged
HW was a member, DG was with Phantom Captain at the time
2 productions: Renfield – based on Dracula, another about Guinevere performed at Glastonbury, Mickery in Holland, company disbanded
Company: Paddy Swanson (NY),    Martin Brensell (director Renfield), Patricia Conway (Canadian),Terry Flin (composer). Small funding, split fees, Ellen Stewart – La Mama founder would come over from New York

Personal division between politics and work and influences
Growing division between politics and work, more interested in the theatre, aware of evolving theatrical movement
Peter Oliver at the Oval, very impressed with him and his work
Ariane Mnouchkine’s 1789 – very impressive
Open Theatre – Joseph Chaikin
David Aukin employed her as CSM when Chaikin came to Roundhouse
Rich mix of influences, keen on film
Emerging own work, Lumiere and Son
Began making own work
DG with Phantom Captain wanted to move into theatre
Phantom Captain had done a clown show called Lumiere and Son
DG wanted to form company with Cindy Oswin and Ian Johnstone.
Ian not suitable so DG asked HW instead
He wanted to write, she direct
DG came from Cambridge, knew Pink Floyd, asked Roger Waters for
money to get started – he donated £1,500

Henry Cow – first concert at Rainbow Theatre

DG lived at Julie Christie’s house, that’s where their office was
Description of Rainbow show
Tip Top Condition, began at Oval and asked to do it at Amsterdam
Science Fiction festival, description of show
Working process with David in developing shows
Jack the Flames – next show

Rose English (RE) in it, DG writer and performer
Didn’t know where scripts would go
Difficulties as fledgling director, experimented with script
Worked at Oval, made props at house, John Ford (now Ashford)
Had office, administrator, rehearsal space and cast from beginning
Always had some funding coming in
More about Jack the Flames and working process with DG

Trickster – based on a Native American legend
Description of story and production
Posters by Storm Thorgersen, who did Pink Floyd record covers
Took as much time over posters as shows
Rehearsed three weeks, toured, came back and started over

Jack the Flames toured to Munich for 3 weeks + UK
The Mad Girls – with RE, Chrissie B, HW and Jo Bartholomew.
Description of production

1975 – The Sleeping Quarters of Sophia and White Men Dancing
Sleeping Quarters  – about split personality. Japanese actor – Aduku Sahara  (also in Trickster)
Performed Bath, double bill with Snoo Wilson
White Men Dancing at Bath, description of production
Events in shop fronts, installations built by themselves
Jo Bartholomew and RE came out of art school
Lighting Designer, Mick Hepple (d. mid 70’s) did some shows
Aga Katahara and Myde (La Mama NY) used to travel with them
Used old sets from theRoyal Court, adapted them for different venues
Southampton, Arts Festival

Contacts and funding of the period

Pest Cure and Molester
Two week workshop in Dordogne 1972, organised by the ITI (International Theatre Institute). Groups from all over: Tandem Gauper (Poland), Robert Wilson, Max Stafford-Clark with Traverse, Mike Kustow, Italians, French
Swiss companies
Puckeroo at Oval and Edinburgh Festival, musical with Pierce Brosnan
1975 – work in shop fronts, Isle of Wight ferry
Hockiko the Worlds Make, description of production

1976 – Dog
DG stopped performing to give himself more time to write
Description of production of Dog, Gary Grant  and Mary [?]
Special Forces –  paramilitary ballet, square dances & reels, outside and inside versions, description of production

Growing confidence and sense of direction
Revenue funding
Got into way of touring and one offs in between
Material mainly to do with dark insides of people
DG & HW would talk about pieces whilst he was writing
Didn’t work with actors but rather, odd people
Developed through jokes, improves, pre-recorded music
Worked with extremes
Used Laban efforts – slow, direct, thrust etc, lots of emotion and text
Characters came from exercises that might be incorporated into text

Passionate Positions (1977)
Trevor Stuart (TS) took over in second tour of Dog and stayed
Piece incorporated Isis and Osiris myth, National and International tours

Icing – different to other productions
HW devised concept this time, description of production and process
RE design

Polical interests and work themes
Always peripherally involved with feminist politics
No longer International Socialist although will attend political meetings Interested in idea of suppressing wildness within us
Pieces content and theme led – not necessarily clear, related to things happening in the world

Lumiere and Son, critics and work cont

David wrote and performed in it, description of piece and production, toured Germany
Nightfall at Royal Court got such bad reviews it drew in audiences
Critics didn’t know how to receive their work, said it shouldn’t be funded
Unusual in that it used text with visual
Some good reviews, no ongoing relationship with any one critic, main critics never softened to them
Revenue funding continued
Alternative theatre had become part of mainstream
Their work a mixed discipline of music/dance/drama, audiences tended to be baffled
Lots of bookings, considered weird and unusual

‘Tring Thing’ weekends, Gulbenkian funded, led one or two sessions
Glazed and Giants were residencies (1979)
Giants – dancers and East15 second year students, toured to Poland
Small description of production, very successful at ICA
Glazed – residency at Chapter Arts. Core company and George  Yassoumi  and Hatley [?] – student from East15, description of production
Glazed and Giants recorded, sort of script in existence but is written in a short hand that is forgotten
String of Pearls (1980). Residency at the Albany, inspired by martial arts film, working with local youngsters. No language, spoke gibberish
Circus Lumiere (1980)

1979 grant to go to SE Asia & China for six months
Travelled with photographer, Paul Derrick who had done photographic exhibitions to go with their residencies
Arts Council travelling grant to China, Signapore, Hong Kong, Indonesia and Malaysia
A month in each looking at dance and theatre
This fed into Circus Lumiere
Jean Pool directed by TS while HW away
On return, residency at Wimbledon School of Art
Wanted to do a black (as in dark) circus
First ever successful show
Circus Lumiere, description of piece, development and production
Toured with a tent, ICA, popular show that toured a second year
Ship Shape – one off working with design students in Nottingham
Unusual thing to do in those days

Directing beyond Lumiere
Shakespeare’s Sister – directed for Monstrous Regiment, based on Theatre de L’Aquarium
Designed by Gemma Jackson, now production designer on films
First freelance job outside Lumiere and Son

Being a woman director
More Lumiere shows and others
Blood Pudding – residency, Jacobeanesque tragedy, ICA
Inspired by Peter Sutcliffe (Yorkshire Ripper), description of production
Further comments on critic’s reviews of their work which was dismissive
Slips (1981) written by David Gale and only play of theirs where there is a published script, description of piece and production, came out of residency at Wimbledon School of Art

About residencies, especially at Wimbledon, East15 and Chapter Arts
Theories about site-specific work and how it worked
Wounds for three women, Mara Hari and Son of Circus Lumiere

The Appeal – TV play written by DG
Two years of Circus Lumiere followed by Son of Circus Lumiere, description
Asked by to direct Three Women Mime. Peta Lily, Tessa Schneidemann
Small description of production and process
Comments on working outside Lumiere and Son and contrasts of working process

Mata Hari
Music theatre piece at Lyric, Linda Lovage
The Appeal
After Image were a video company who had own TV show called
Alter Image, they commissioned The Appeal for TV, description of piece
Circus Lumiere in Brisbane. TS (Ozzie) in it, Jenny Thomas their  administrator was Ozzie too
Senseless, a piece with music
Beauty and the Beast with Frank Milward (FM)
Then Jeremy Peyton-Jones (JP-J) (Oz) was a friend of TS, did score for Slips, worked in New York and wrote clown dance in Circus Lumiere

DG wrote libretto, FM composed music, opera singers, description of piece

Beauty and the Beast with East15 at ICA, FM – music, Helen Turner –  design ex Wimbledon
The Shrinking Man with David Glass
Brightside (DG left company after Senseless)
All shows from then on devised by HW, description of Brightside
Perrier Pick of Fringe Award at Edinburgh Festival, transferred to Donmar Warehouse, London
Further description of Brightside, DG wrote a poem for it
Vulture Culture – outdoor show for Henley Music Festival, description of piece

Mick Flood from Waterman’s commissioned it
Post Entertaining Strangers at Lyric [SC- National??]
Said yes to Waterman’s [Art Centre] shortly after starting relationship with Kew Gardens. Aidan Evans. Piece on destruction of rainforest in Kewitself
Description of piece
Huge sponsorship from film company, good reviews, up to 2,000 people a night came
Tyrone Huggins – eagle in a tree, women as toucans
Pioneering work for theatre, process post-DG
Their kind of work hardly done at all at that point
Performing in venues that weren’t venue before the company went there
Helped get over teething problems of site-specific work for future generations
More restricted now because of health and safety issues which eat into funding
Working process of company after DG left (with reference to Deadwood)
Hilary would decide story and ask for material from DG
Description and idea and development of Deadwood project
Worked closely with Wendy Houston and TS

Mid 80s, how work changed in changing political climate
Lumiere and Son always relatively sophisticated technically and became more so
Over time venues couldn’t allow them the time needed for setting and get ins

Deadwood repeated a few years later in Singapore
Renamed ‘Fragile Rain Forest’, Kate McPhee designer
In mid 80s there was no pressure to do community work, did it to have large casts
If they had had a budget they would have employed professionals

Subsequent work with communities were part of commission
Heart of Ice East15 wrote it, performed at The Place, description of story
Vulture Culture – indoors in Brisbane, fully professional cast, Queensland
Orchestra, DG wrote text, TS in it
Nightlife – Northampton, worked with Melanie Pappenheim and Mike Finesilver from Brightside
Working with locals, Simon Calder photographer
Through scored and projections throughout, description of production
Panic – Actors – Josette Bushell-Mingo, Melanie Pappenheim, Heather Ackroyd,Mary Shand and Mary Richardson, JP-J (also did Deadwood and Heart of Ice)
Met JP-J through TS, he did music for Impact Theatre Co-op (FW had returned to Australia)

Running the company
Her home provided key element to company work
Information about that
Company office moved there in 1990s when funding was lost
Office previously in Battersea
Parties and readings at her home, collaborators met over dinner,
Board meetings held there
The company was formally constituted at end of the 70’s
Board at beginning: Storm Thorgersen, Jenny Thompson, DG,TS, HW
When a Charity: Warren Davies (National Trust), John Simpson (White Light), Jenny Topper, Sally Potter
Development of their funding
Posters and publicity, brochures
Give away A4 fold-over programs, how nature of their publicity changed
Original work considered too arty, later ones less arty and dark
Greater London Arts Association – director of theatre board, Theatre Assessor  for them
Board of V-Tol Dance Company, used Board well, Chair- Seamus O’Connell
Lumiere and Son’s Board resigned after funding loss, original Board members came back: JP-J, DG, Steve Wald, Simon Calder, Jenny Thompson
Didn’t work much together after that

Assessing other work – experience and range covered
Tip Top Condition in Mauberge with projections and music
Circus Lumiere recorder for Channel 4
Beauty and the Beast with Pushkala [Gopal], first of their collaborations, musicians and dancers from India, rehearsals scheduled around meals
Taming of the Shrew later, she was invited on to their Board when they became Agshia
War Dance Nottingham
Commission from Nottingham Festival with theme of Brit Art 1880 -1910, performed Nottingham Castle, description of production

Track 2

Here, There and Everywhere, 1991
Large-scale, small-scale show taking up whole of that year’s grant
DG had left in 1983 but continued to write for company
Performed at Riverside with 8 performers, large video wall
Pirandello-type, Six Characters [in Search of an Author] – broad theme
HW thought it good, poorly received, didn’t get good audiences
Lost grant, unfortunately and unfairly
Piece explored nature of identity, description. Idea was that characters were alive. First part showed extracts from Chekhov, Strindberg – they were character ‘types’ that would appear in classics
They discover that their world is a façade and theatre, they looked behind set and walls
The characters escaped from their plays, dismantling their sets and went across to the bar and met real people, DG and she would come on stage to remind them that they were people who had become characters and
would show them videos of the rehearsals
Play similarity to Pirandello allowed critics like Billington to judge it as inferior and unfairly
Originally called Shallow Grave, but Riverside marketing didn’t think people would come if it was called that…
Production didn’t appeal to ACE, uncomfortable time, HW had a rocky relationship with their current Chief Executive
Things had changed, harder to put work on
Looking at contemporary company’s who do well now, like Punch Drunk who are marketed by the National
Lumiere did it all themselves and venues couldn’t afford them any more, too expensive for places they toured to, not only fees but big costs for set up times, younger companies were cheaper
ACE had encouraged them to get a Chief Executive and to put all their money into one show and then used that against them

Final show
They had about £30,000 left for a final show
Abduction at ICA, DG did script, HW treatment of story
HW had read in the US about a lot of women who’d been abducted by aliens and who had described what had had been done to them sexually by them
It transpired they had all been abused as children and were using these stories as a way to express it
Description of show, 3 people, living in 3 different rooms in the city and visited by 3 alien types – 2 tenors and a counter tenor
HW got them to explore themselves sexually
Music was by JP-J, show was received well, but as it was last show that didn’t mean much, outsider themes again

Company building
British Rail property in Silverstone Road, Battersea
Old warehouse, big rehearsal room, cold, snow on floor
HW had an office + admin office, costume store, parking for lorries
Gave in notice quickly after loss of grant
Hadn’t quite worked out what loss of grant meant as HW had greater visions of other successes

HW’s Freelance work
Work with Angus Farquhar in Scotland, big shows in Highlands
His interest in mythology of landscape
Odd directorial jobs, couple of operas in Dublin
Talked to agents but range of her work too broad for them, didn’t need someone to negotiate contracts as she did that
Would have liked a co-person, HW was protected by her administrator when working with Lumiere
DG left to write a novel, is teaching now
HW well-known for site-specific specialist, how to make something on that scale, seen as person who can do that
River in Time, show in Singapore
Did Vulture Culture in Oz and met a sound designer who had connections in Singapore
Big show in a stadium – 2 orchestras and 100 performers
About development in Singapore since British had left, was a replacement director, called Monday and went out Friday, read script on plane
Worked out well, knows how to work with large numbers of people
Neptune’s Net was part of Out of the Blue and difficult show to do
ACE had new collaborators policy in their funding, wanted to fund new collaborations which created some wacky results
Conan Pierce – video artist and Pip Grearsley were put together as residents in Goulestone to come up with something
She wrote story, they did a show that was poorly received, served its purpose from a community perspective

Big, big show, performed at end of September on North Sea,
Freezing, reviewers came up from London and grumbled together, local reviews were good
Interesting collaboration without hierarchy
Problems getting participants to turn up, Arts Officer was convinced it was what locals desired, expecting 100 locals and got 3
The Butterfly Show with Lumiere had similar experience (at Penzance pool), expected 100 and got 10
Problems getting people to turn up, once the show is done they want to do it all over again
Description Neptune’s Net, Great Yarmouth had a great fishing industry which is gone
A great store is discovered under the sea which could regenerate the area, the store begins to move, a military operation is mounted to capture it
There was a huge ship, harbour was closed. DG script, audience moved around harbour, jets, helicopters

55 Years of Swallow and the Butterfly
Show about water
Chorus of 12, 1999, large scale, very successful
Helen Marriage, director of Salisbury Festival, asked HW to do
something around Alice in Wonderland, centenary of Lewis Caroll’s birth,
(Alice Liddell lived in Salisbury area), performed in pleasure gardens in Salisbury
Idea was what happened to character’s of Alice’s imagination when they were no longer needed for her dreams
Hosted a dinner in the gardens (25 professionals in cast with
Locals being waiters), description of piece and performance,
200 audience, 5 course Victorian meal, big lawn set out like a chequers board
Worked very well and well received
Helen Marriage is looking to do it again somewhere else
Another show in Salisbury
The West front of cathedral had been restored and there was to be an unveiling ceremony
Church had suggested Carmina Burana
Audience with picnics, pre-show event followed by Bournemouth
Symphony Orchestra doing Carmina Burana with Video projections from Simon Calder on the face of the Cathedral, abseilers, animals, llamas, oxen

Queen’s Golden Jubilee
Helped co-ordinate the parade for the Golden Jubilee, Producer was
Sir Michael Parker
Idea was looking at social, cultural and political life of last 50 years of
Queen’s reign, looking at how we went from a mono-culture to a multiracial one
Floats of lounges and sitting rooms for each decade of Queen’s reign,toy floats, science, sports
Featured different musicals on floats – Rocky Horror on science, My Fair Lady on sports
Iconic design images, Daleks, Muffin the Mule
More detail of parade and floats, how telephone boxes have changed
Cars from the decades
Participants from communities, the carrot was doing it for TV and Queen
Budget evolved, lot of infrastructure, assistants on day included DG,
Frank Milward, Geraldine Pilgrim who had an arts float each to manage
Kate McPhee did costumes, Jonathan Park did floats
HW did a live interview with Jonathan Dimbleby who was quite scathing about it all, description of interview and watching parade from BBC van

Disneyland Resort Paris
Recruited for post of Creative Director
Responsible for parades, shows & street theatre in 2 parks
Disneyland didn’t do too many new shows
She did two new things whilst there – 25 minutes production of
Lion King and a new parade + other involvements in Easter and
Halloween Seasons where groups were brought in from outside
Teams of 4 show directors and choreographers, who would write proposal and she would produce them
HW did a few things differently but had to go through so many hoops before ideas were Okayed, if you had a new idea opposition was as high, Corporations want something new but nervous about going out on a limb
Didn’t really suit her but learnt a lot in 3 years about corporate life
Learnt new ‘corporate’ language
Feasibility department good, they deconstructed budget and rewrote it
In theatre nobody really budgets a proposal
Work well paid, French taxes high & rented flat
Learnt to appreciate nature of entertainment
Looked at what worked and what didn’t in terms of ‘entertainment’
More awareness of possibilities of that world, felt thwarted there
Work post Disneyland

Before the Wolf
Music theatre piece, Neil Butler was producer, had Glasgow based company called Uzed, composer, Jim  Sullivan
Asked to write music for musicians who wouldn’t normally work together, nice stage structure
Performance in Gateshead & Scotland, 35 musicians who hadn’t learnt music beforehand, so didn’t end up as HW wanted
Sugar & Spice & Things Not So Nice in Liverpool, Hope Street with young people, Year of Culture – asked to do something on Slave Trade
Young performers were good, created over 3 weeks

Getting rid of her house, doing archive
Work with Avanti
Work with Circulation – circus content
Wants more space to pursue own ideas, currently turning down stuff
Key achievements – developed work in different styles, developed interesting and unusual theatrical language that discussed deep issues
Can’t do the same now
Working from scratch, hard, bold, adventurous, sense of integrity
Slipping away of principles
Fast and Dirty, set up by Second Stride, 8 performers and
8 actors, had time to develop work
Creative heaven: to be able to play without end and work being taken seriously

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