How did you first come across Mudlarks and how did you get involved?
Director Will Wrightson asked me to come on board to co-produce a play at the HighTide Festival. At that time he and the HighTide team were still reading scripts, looking for the right play to present, so I joined in. There were so many great submissions and some really interesting pieces, but we were looking for the one that really jumped off the page. Literary Manager Rob Drummer had met Vickie at a HighTide writing roadshow, sent Mudlarks through and Will instantly responded to it. He sent it to me and we agreed that it was a compelling piece of writing deserving of a wide audience.
What drew you to the play?
Mudlarks explores huge themes in a thrillingly simple way. Vickie has a talent for writing full flesh-and-blood characters and a great ear for dialogue and rhythm, and so Jake, Charlie and Wayne are very real. Their situation is recognisable from media reports about a disaffected younger generation; the events of the play have happened in reality and will happen again tomorrow. Still, at the heart of the play are three frightened boys, each trying to be men in their own way, with some very moving and beautiful moments. For me, it is a contemporary and relevant play about choice, responsibility and the fear of both.
What have been the challenges in mounting the production, first at HighTide, then at Theatre503? How did the Theatre503 transfer come about?
We have been lucky enough to have an incredibly skilled and dedicated team working on the show, and so in fact the challenges have largely been physical! I’m sure there are some of us who will never forget the four tonnes of mud heaved up to the top floor of the Cut Arts Centre, Halesworth, which became two tonnes in the differently-configured playing-space at Theatre503.
The transfer came about as I had mounted a double-bill of Jonathan Brittain’s plays at Theatre503 for a week in 2011, with success. We wanted Mudlarks to have a life after the HighTide Festival, and for Vickie’s professional debut to be seen by as many people as possible. We sent them the script and they were as excited about it as we had been. The team from the Bush Theatre came to see it and shared our passion for the show, which led to its revival.
Will and our fantastic actors Scott Hazell, James Marchant and Mike Noble were challenged to re-work the show end-on at Theatre503, as we had performed in traverse at the HighTide Festival. Our designer Amy Cook and her assistant Nick Spalding also took on the task of creating the same muddy riverbank and Josh Carr and Richard Hammarton tackled the dark gloomy atmosphere with their lighting and sound designs respectively. As we move into the Bush Theatre, Will Evans takes over our lighting design and the show reverts to traverse, giving the audience a new viewing experience in the venue. The mud however remains intact…
Most Off-West-End and Fringe productions are financially challenging, and the show would not have been possible without the kind support of Arts Council East, HighTide, the Arts Patrons’ Trust, the Unity Theatre Trust, the Beacon Charitable Foundation and the Mackintosh Foundation, as well as a host of generous individual supporters.
What have been the highlights?
It has been a privilege to produce alongside the HighTide team, a bunch of talented, friendly people who are seriously invested in new writing and supporting new artists. Their work ethic and passion has been really stimulating. The successful new writing relationship between Vickie and Will has been a great process to be part of, and of course the positive feedback from audience members has been really satisfying. It’s a great feeling to know that you’re presenting ambitious, relevant work that people want to see and get something from.
How did you get involved in producing?
I began producing at the Bedlam Theatre in Edinburgh, which is run year-round by the Edinburgh University Theatre Company. I have never wanted to be on the stage, but I enjoy making it possible for amazing things to happen there. Whilst at university I produced at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, and since then I have taken or been part of shows there every year. I was also lucky enough to have two shows selected to take part in the National Student Drama Festival, which gave me a good platform to showcase work and to meet some very inspiring people. After moving back to London, I produced the Finborough Theatre’s new writing festival Vibrant, which gave me an insight into the number of brilliant writers, actors and directors out there. I also took advantage of schemes such as the Old Vic New Voices programme, which enabled me to create relationships with fellow emerging theatre-makers. I have since freelanced with many different venues and companies.
Have you got any projects in the pipeline?
I’m currently working with director Amy Draper on a devised project, These Trees Are Made of Blood, which is an exploration of the Argentine “disappearances” in the 1970s through cabaret and different performance styles. I’m also touring PEEP, a peep-show for plays that launched at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe this year with Natural Shocks and director Donnacadh O’Briain. Meanwhile I’m always on the look-out for the next company, venue or project to work with!