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GARETH MORGAN INTERVIEWS GILES CROFT, ARTISTIC DIRECTOR OF NOTTINGHAM PLAYHOUSE

Giles Croft in rehearsal

Giles Croft is the Artistic Director of Nottingham Playhouse; we met up with him for a chat about what new writing means for him, how his role has allowed the Playhouse to find and foster emerging talent and what the future holds for new playwrights in the region. In addition to the interview, he has also recorded an exclusive sound-bite detailing his commitment to new, exciting playwriting!

Theatre Writing Partnership: What, for you, is the importance of developing local theatre writing talent?

Giles Croft: I am a firm believer in theatres making connections with the community in which they are based and speaking directly to their audience in work relevant to them and their lives. Local writers are central to this and to the life of an arts organisation like ours, I would hope that people who come to Nottingham Playhouse see and appreciate this. There are many other organisations serving and supporting new playwriting regionally such as the Lakeside Arts Centre, New Perspectives and Theatre Writing Partnership, and their work, in tandem with us, is creating brilliant new drama. The projects we and others have embarked upon with local talent have been very fruitful and the graduates of which have proven there are careers and futures to be made from their talents. In short, it’s a great time to be an artist in the East Midlands.

TWP: What do you see as Nottingham Playhouse’s role within this?

GC: We have to be able to provide opportunities for new writers to have their work produced. It is great for writers to develop their plays with local theatres and agencies through readings and workshops but this ultimately lacks a full audience response. We have worked closely with the other organisations in the region and fostered the work of many writers: Michael Pinchbeck, Andy Barrett, Amanda Whittington, Leah Chillery, Nick Wood, Stephen Lowe, Laura Lomas and, in the last season, Michael Eaton and Michelle Vacciana. Some of these writers have been more established than others and maybe in different fields but I believe they will all say the same thing, when writing for performance you gain most through seeing the work on stage with actors and an audience. We see this as part of our contribution to our commitment to new work.

With the unsure financial situation all arts organisations have found themselves in at the moment our ability to produce may become more limited but we are exploring different ways to have new work performed in the region. We have plenty of projects in the pipeline, many emerging artists already working with us and our partner organisations and we will find clever way to invest in local writing talent over the next few years.

TWP: What have been the real success stories and which new written shows have you been most proud off?

GC: I believe that the real success stories are not actually the plays themselves. This is not to say that the plays have not been good, they have been excellent, but what I am most proud of is our steadfastness to making a commitment to new writing, mounting these shows and now having a group of writers who are proud to say that they have had their work produced by Nottingham Playhouse.

Shows which are personal highlights for me have been recently directing Families of Lockerbie by Michael Eaton. Whilst the play was seen as an odd hybrid between verbatim, documentary theatre and the individual tragedies of the characters Michael created, I knew that the intent and the delivery were absolutely right. It also further demonstrated our continued commitment to producing innovative, different and challenging work. Last year’s Garage Band is another show I enjoyed. It was Andy Barrett’s second show with us and showed a clear development in his craft as a writer, highlighting the importance of having work performed. The show was also bloody good fun; it was a really enjoyable place to be with the audience dancing and cheering every night. Finally, Laura Lomas’ The Island which I see as a perfect example of Nottingham Playhouse’s ability to sustain a working relationship with an emerging writer and help them towards a successful career. Laura, after doing the show with us, has now gone on to work with New Perspectives and the National Youth Theatre whilst we have continued to stay in contact. A possible commission in the future? I hope so.

TWP: What are in Nottingham Playhouse’s plans for new writing and new playwrights in the future?

GC: We have five writers under commission currently: Amanda Whittington, Andy Barrett, Michelle Vacciana and Micheals Pinchbeck and Eaton. Some of these writers are moving in new directions such as Andy who is adapting an Ibsen piece for the ETC conference here at Nottingham Playhouse in May 2011 whilst Michelle is doing further development on Fakebook. We have our Summer Readings events where we will hear the work of some very different playwrights over the course of a week, this due to be repeated in the autumn, plus we are delivering this year’s Peter Wolff supports The Whiting Award in association with Theatre Writing Partnership.

When you look at it a lot of what we are going to produce, whilst taking a small step back, shows that in spite of the financial climate there is a real push here to keep producing and investing in new theatre writing talent throughout this period and to encourage the relationship we have with the writers we already work with, those we are interested in and those we are yet to encounter. It is important to acknowledge the work of people like Gavin Stride, who when I arrived was the Artistic Director of New Perspectives, it was his energy and drive which brought much of this early progress together. Since then Ester Richardson, Matt Aston, Daniel Buckroyd and Kate Chapman, at the helm of the current incarnation of TWP, have continued to develop great work and this vibrant new writing community we are very proud to have in the East Midlands.

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