NUMEROUS four and five-star reviews; the possibility of follow-up tours; a writer and an actor signing up with two different agencies; a show offered a month’s run in New York, another winning a coveted award from The Scotsman newspaper and a third being considered by two publishers… Greenwich Theatre’s team came away triumphant from the Edinburgh Festival with all sorts of fringe benefits.
“We were involved in one way or another in 10 shows,” said James Haddrell, the theatre’s artistic and executive director, who drove the minibus to Scotland and the van on the way back. “It was exhausting but incredibly rewarding. We were all very tired but very, very happy.”
“Edinburgh is an incredibly important part of our year at Greenwich Theatre. Support for new and emerging artists and theatre companies is at the heart of our operation and the Edinburgh Fringe offers a huge opportunity for those artists at an early stage in their careers. If you take a new show to Edinburgh you can be seen by countless reviewers, and by theatre producers and programmers from around the country. If you ran a new show in London you might be lucky to get two or three reviews and one regional programmer, so it’s the most important shop window in the world for new theatre-makers to show their work. “So every year we support some shows, produce or co-produce some others and this year we took one of our own – and I must say we had an amazing fringe.”
This year James also directed two of the shows in the Greenwich portfolio, both having already been presented at Greenwich Theatre. He said: “We produced our own revival of Gazing At A Distant Star by Sian Rowland – the play we chose to open our new studio back in January. It was presented at Assembly, one of the biggest venue groups at the festival, after one of their programmers saw it here in Greenwich. As well as good reviews there is now discussion about a future tour and Sian is now represented by an agent.
“We also co-produced a revival of Under My Thumb with Culture Clash Theatre – a show which we presented first in a pop-up space at the theatre and then at the Brighton Fringe in earlier this year. That was also selected by Assembly to be part of their programme, and they worked hard with us to find a new venue for the show, a kind of subterranean, immersive space. It worked very well, received four and five star reviews and two members of the cast have since been signed by acting agencies.”
The Greenwich team also revived its partnership with London’s New Diorama Theatre by co-producing an ambitious new play called The Secret Life of Humans, which is based on Sapiens by Yuval Noah Harari and fused with Jacob Bronowski’s The Ascent of Man. “That was presented at Pleasance Two, one of the flagship spaces in Edinburgh, and was very well received. As a result the show has been offered a month’s run in New York.”
Silent Uproar, another company supported at the fringe by Greenwich Theatre, presented A Super Happy Story (About Feeling Super Sad), which won the Kevin Spacey Foundation Award for music theatre before going to Edinburgh – and while it was up there it picked up a coveted Fringe First award from The Scotsman.
Under My Thumb, written by Cassia Joski-Jethi and directed by James, is under consideration by two publishing companies. “We’re very excited about that,” said James. “Without going to Edinburgh and getting such glowing reviews it is unlikely that the script would even have been considered. It’s another testament to the importance of Edinburgh.”
“Co-producing the play meant that we could work again with Serin Ibrahim and Cassandra Hercules, the two young producer/performers who had such a hit with Hannah and Hanna.”
“For the 10 shows we provided things like rehearsal space, cash flow support, transport, help with PR and publicity. We supported the marketing for all the companies and we’re very proud of working with each one of them individually rather than just producing a standard ‘festival aid package’.”
“Greenwich Theatre would not be what it is without our work in Edinburgh. The festival can launch long and successful careers in this industry, and the companies that we support in taking work there often go on to become an integral part of our programming.”
For more information, visit www.greenwichtheatre.org.uk