AN ARTISTIC DIRECTOR’S BLOG 1
5 February 2018
Brigid Larmour, Artistic Director & Chief Executive of Watford Palace Theatre reflects on the themes of January at the theatre.
It’s been a wonderful and thought-provoking start to the year at the Palace. I was very moved by Gecko Theatre's stunning THE WEDDING, a physical theatre piece exploring ideas of migration and alienation. It helped us to attract new migrants and other excluded people to our theatre, to see some of their own experiences reflected and validated. There was a wide range of ages and backgrounds - I was thrilled to see so many young people - and the show brought us to our feet at the end.
We are rehearsing our new production of Arthur Miller’s late masterpiece BROKEN GLASS, which also looks at ideas of identity and belonging. Director Richard Beecham mentioned on the first day that this is one of the few plays in which Miller directly addresses his Jewish identity - alongside PLAYING FOR TIME, which Richard recently directed at the Sheffield Crucible starring Sian Phillips. BROKEN GLASS explores an American Jewish marriage thrown into crisis by the emotional impact ofthe ‘night of the broken glass’ in 1938 - when Nazis violently attacked Jewish people, synagogues and businesses - on one woman in Brooklyn. It deals with the wider political events, but through a powerful and intimate relationship drama. We have a brilliant cast, led by the excellent Charlotte Emmerson (Baby Doll in the West End, and countless other classy theatre gigs), last seen on our stage in THE DAUGHTER-IN-LAW in 2006.This is the 50th anniversary of ‘Kristallnacht’.
So, in our theatre, we’re trying our best to make sense of the big, and sometimes disturbing changes going on around us, through powerful, thrilling human stories.
I’ve just got back from seeing the brilliant Talawa/Royal Exchange Harlem-set GUYS AND DOLLS in Manchester. It made me reflect on the fact that in 1986 I directed what was called the first ‘all-Black’ production outside London, Mustapha Matura’s PLAYBOY OF THE WEST INDIES at Contact Theatre, Manchester. We had an amazing cast including Sharon D Clarke. Slow progress nationally since then, but there is change in the air. If not now, then when?
Meanwhile - from the sublime to the ridiculous - we had our panto internal debrief (oh yes we did!), addressing such issues as how to get more sloppy in the slop scene, whether 6pm or 7pm is a more parent-friendly start time, whether we can afford environmentally friendly glitter (alas no, can anyone come up with a cheaper version please?), and how to make sure that even if we double a ‘skin’ character (an actor in an animal suit, like the Panda) with another two roles, we make sure the actor in question gets at least five minutes to sit down and rest during the show...
There are lots more exciting things to come for the Palace in 2018, and I will be letting you know more about it personally. Thanks for reading blog number 1!