In July 2023, Watford Palace Theatre launched a callout for local creatives from the Beds, Bucks, and Herts region to apply to artist development programme AGITATE!, with new or previously told ideas that targeted audiences at their heart. The successful applicants will each receive up to £2,000 in funding to develop and stage their work, as well as enjoy the professional support of the Watford Palace Theatre team, a designated rehearsal space, and access to an engaged audience who will experience the work and provide essential feedback.

Deeply rooted in the local community, Watford Palace Theatre is a firm advocate for providing a platform to local creatives, evidenced by the Three Counties Freelance Season that took place in 2021, and gave rise to the staging of the 4-star touring production of The Lost Spells based on the bestselling book by Robert Macfarlane and Jackie Morris.

Many artists are freelancers encountering much risk to their livelihood and wellbeing, and of course the pandemic has had a detrimental effect on this. Watford Palace Theatre recognises artist development as a specialism that is essential to the future of the theatre industry. The ambition for the AGITATE! programme is that it will enable creatives to recover from the aftereffects of the pandemic, allowing them to overcome obstacles to funding, networking, and gaining industry expertise. Space for artists and emerging new ways of thinking will become the norm at Watford Palace Theatre, where new productions will be supported and developed. The theatre will soon be running a series of workshops for artists, teaching them to how best to engage with audiences, promote, and stage their work. Anyone interested in registering for these workshops should contact programming@watfordpalacetheatre.co.uk

Of the new AGITATE! programme of work, Chief Executive and Director of Programming, Steve Marmion said:

“I have been really impressed with the range of applications and artists that have come in for AGITATE! It shows a huge depth of talent, originality and ambition across the region, and some great ideas for shows that we haven’t seen before.  I can’t wait to see what they make.”

The successful applicants are:

  1. Chris Dobson, Watford-based puppeteer, actor, and theatre maker, who presents his piece Alex in Thunderland. Aimed at family audiences with children aged 3-7 years, Chris’ work explores the positive and negative aspects of gaming through the lens of a teenage video game streamer who finds a cursed retro game that sucks him into a world akin to “Alice in Wonderland”.
  2. Designer Lauren Connolly presents ReCollection; a pop-up installation that questions what it’s like being a millennial woman in their twenties in 2023. Lauren said:

“I’m full of thanks to Watford Palace Theatre, in not only supporting its local creatives with such an exciting project, but in putting together AGITATE! as a project, which offers a brand new and frankly rare opportunity for creatives. Creating design-led work is something that has always interested me but has not always felt achievable so I’m glad to finally be given the time and space to explore this process alongside Watford Palace Theatre.”
www.laurenconnolly.co.uk | @laurenconnollydesign | @laurengconnolly

  1. Prashant Tailor whose piece The Screw-Job looks to provide joy and escapism to an adult audience by investigating the sell-out hype of wrestling; why theatres haven’t responded to the demand, and what really happened at the most controversial event in sports entertainment history in November 1997.
  2. Ludens Theatre Company present Terraforming Mars, an immersive game theatre production aimed at twenty- to forty-year-olds who must race against the clock to be the first settlers on Mars. Using brand-new technology, audiences must build unprecedented scientific advancements and outwit their rivals to control the future of mankind. Of their involvement in the AGITATE! programme, Ludens Theatre Company said:

“We are passionate about building the immersive theatre community. Introducing new audiences to the artform is a crucial step in the community-building process, and we are excited to partner with WPT to bring this thriving medium of theatre beyond the confines of the London-dominated scene”.
www.ludenstheatrecompany.com | @ludenstheatrecompany

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