What could happen in Stratford which would truly surprise you

ERICA WHYMAN, 7 October 2012

A very lively and frank conversation with these splendid participants:

Ida Ballerini, Graeme Rose, Catherine Mallyon, Geraldine Collinge, Thomas Wildish, Gareth Nicholls, Charles Twigger, Alison Gagan, Ben Pacey, Grier Palmer, Delia Garrett, Struan Leslie, Anna Brickma, Paul Warwick, Sam Taylor, Nicky Cox, Nicky Salmon.

These are rather hasty notes as I know otherwise I will fail to write a report at all! So forgive me for the shorthand, and for not attributing everything and please do comment if you want to expand.

Sam from the young company at the RSC said it was already surprising and told us all about a cross-artform project (Building Takeover) which had mixed rap, visual art, urban language with Shakespeare. Had surprised the young people who came and also the RSC staff.

Possibility of really using the collections to explain and contextualise the company's work - relationship with the town, Also the possibility of using archive material to remind/explain the radical history of the RSC e.g Marat Sade.

Struggle in Stratford is the difference between the tourist audience and expectation and the local residents. Needs to be both a great place to come and visit and to work and live - if this achieved would be a surprise.

Relationship between Birth Place Trust and RSC could be stronger although a lot underway. The Film Festival played largely to theatre audiences and didn't reach new people

Grier talked about the many surprises of the BM exhibition/RSC collaboration

Paul from China Plate he was surprised to find the RSC were interested in regional artists - Pilot Night very positive experience, very large audience for that kind of work, very receptive. Really did feel like a pilot night. Great collaboration

Could TOP be a home for regional artists? - it was great to have the challenge of responding to the canon. Also seemed to indicate the possibility of a whole generation of artists making larger work for big stages.

The importance of preparing people for “surprise”. the tone of the Pilot Night was very well set. Troilus and Cressida - the wrong kind of surprise to some.

Nicky spoke about the relationship with the audience and the need to be clear to them about what to expect.

Interest in getting beyond just text and drama to other artforms, an exchange of artists' energy.

I talked about Radical Mischief as a means of describing the commonality between

Shakespeare and contemporary theatre makers. Politics, language, audiences, popularity, all interesting ways into new work in Stratford. A link between the Elizabethan and the Modernity which has always characterised the company

Need for a dedicated space/place/home for a particular strand of work and atmosphere? or could that limit the reach of such work? need to make it permeable.

The legacy of the original TOP - which hugely influenced main stage work.

It would surprise if there was no Shakespeare for a year

Could Stratford become a city/place of culture like Glasgow or Newcastle. Could the writers' programme at Warwick come to Stratford in residence

Sustained diverse audiences would be surprising. Really effective partnership between RSC/Birthplace Trust/University would help

Would be surprising if Stratford was open after 5pm! EW Newcastle experience is that this is possible to change - money to be made for local retailers

Pre-show events a bit formal and tricky in the RST. Strong sense of togetherness in the Courtyard. Could the modernity/energy of the RSC be more vivid

Would surprise if more Stratford residents engaged. What do they want to see?

Free outdoor performance? Promenade? Big site-specific work? Do we need an

Elephant/Spider? A desire for unexpected theatre which doesn't require you to book/travel/commit

What about the Mysteries or something with the scale and engagement of the Port Talbot Passion? Slung Low's headsets would make intimate hearings of Shakespeare's text possible against a vast backdrop, or just throughout the town

A few flights of fancy; setting light to the Avon, a ship on the river, a massive Henry V!

A late train home to Birmingham would be surprising and transformative

Ben P; what if the demographic and atmosphere changed over time and it became a place for graduates and young creatives to start up businesses because of the cultural energy of the town

Paul - what about making work about the actual interests of the town? He described his football experience in Coventry

I was left with a strong sense of the energy and ambition in and beyond the RSC, and of the important challenge of persuading the town there is more to Shakespeare than olde worlde tourism


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