Presented by Snuff Box Theatre in association with The Royal Exchange and The Finborough Theatre, supported by the BBC Performing Arts Legacy Grant: WEALD
It all started in 2013…me and writer Daniel Foxsmith stumbled across The Hodgkiss Award at The Royal Exchange.
It was a unique proposal – a director and writer who want to work with each other, and have an idea, however embryonic, apply as a team. And the prize was that the show would be mounted in the studio. We’d never had any contact with The Royal Exchange before, but this really grabbed our attention, and so with a couple of pages of dialogue, and a monologue…we applied. We ended up being shortlisted, and having a fantastic weekend, working with top actors (including David Crellin, who has come on the journey with us!) and having fallen in love with the building.
Whilst we didn’t win, we came away full of determination that our little idea might have something in it! Those few pages turned into WEALD, and over the next year and a half, Dan wrote the full play. In the meantime, something crazy happened, that really changed things for me – after The Hodgkiss weekend, Sarah Frankcom rang me up and asked if I was interested in applying for the BBC Performing Arts Fellowship. I didn’t know anything about it, but basically, theatres could apply with a proposed fellow, and if successful, that person would then spend a considerable amount of time working at the theatre. Of course I said yes – and luckily for me, we were successful!
So suddenly, in 2014, I found myself moving up to Manchester, via The New Vic in Stoke (my home city!) and working at the most incredible theatre. I assisted on two shows, including HAMLET, I got stuck in with the Young Company, I read scripts – I even had a desk space. It was unbelievable, and I learnt such a lot, I think I’m still processing it all really. (And since the Theatre have got me back as Asssociate on THE SKRIKER and director of NOTHING with the Young Company). At the end of my fellowship, part of the deal was that I would get to work on a piece of my own for a week, with a sharing at the end.
By now, WEALD had become this beautiful, fully formed thing, and so it made complete sense to come full circle, and work on that. That was in January 2015 and we spent a week with David Crellin and Gerard Kearns, both hugely generous and talented. We kicked the script around, discovered stuff that really worked, and a few things that didn’t, and started to work out how we could show horses on stage! At the end of this, we presented a rehearsed reading (very much up on its feet) to Royal Exchange staff and the BBC Performing Arts Fund team. Thankfully, we had a great response and Sarah Frankcom pledged her support in helping us to get it staged. The BBC then announced a Legacy Grant, for any Fellows, to help fund a project, and so of course I applied with WEALD. They gave us £10,000 towards the project, which meant we could secure a cast and creative team.
The only thing was that it had to be performed by February 2016, and there was no space in the Studio! We’d had an offer from The Finborough Theatre for the February slot, and decided to take it, and The Royal Exchange brilliantly said it could be presented in association with them. Fast forward a year, and we’re in rehearsals in Manchester with a fantastic team, Arts Council Funding, two weeks to go and plenty of butterflies! I’ll be forever grateful for the support the Exchange has given me – it’s not an overstatement to say it has changed my life. So now, I’ll do my very best to make it a good show!