Why and how did you form Birmingham Stage Company?
I started my theatre company when I was nineteen but I wanted to do a variety of work and I realised that as an independent company you have to have a specific identity. Cheek by Jowl does Shakespeare adaptations, Shared Experience does adaptations etc but I wanted to do Chekhov and children’s theatre and new plays and the only way you can produce such a variety of work is to have a venue. So for six months I looked up and down the country for a theatre in which to house my company and it was only by chance that I found The Old Rep Theatre in Birmingham, my home town.
It took twelve months to get the council to let me base my company at the theatre before we started in 1992. Our first Christmas show was Fantastic Mr Fox by Roald Dahl and that was what started our long association with this great writer. Fantastic Mr Fox was the first professional Christmas show at the Old Rep for twenty years and yet 17,500 people came to see it, which proved that there was a big demand for high quality children’s theatre. This has proved true during our tours all over the UK ever since.
Why do you enjoy producing children’s theatre?
I love children and I love children’s writing. A lot of children’s writing has really interesting characters. The writing and the characters are very challenging and so too are the audiences. Whereas adults go to sleep if they are bored, children will quickly let you know if they lose interest. Keeping that interest and keeping them engaged is difficult but very rewarding because they are so giving as an audience.
They often respond in a way that you don’t anticipate and you never cease to underestimate their sophistication and what they will find interesting. You can never guess what direction they will want to go in when you tell the story. That is why children’s theatre is so exciting.
How did you come to get involved with doing Horrible Histories on stage?
One day we were all sitting in the office thinking what we should do next and my Education Director said “What about Horrible Histories?” I thought it was a great idea so I looked up Terry Deary on the internet and gave him a call. He was delighted and that’s all it took – just one phone call! The rest is Horrible history!