“Paines Plough is the UK’s national theatre of new plays.” They were at Latitude Festival with ‘With A Little Bit of Luck’. Their Joint Artistic Director James Grieve was asked to speak in the Literary Arena. It was described as a Director’s Session, label it what you like, every discussion about the arts descents into the same questions: how do we get our work seen? How do we pay for it?
The three members of the panel introduced themselves and how they got to be where they are. It sounded simple: starting their own companies and getting that work seen. James started nabokov, a company that strived to do the opposite of how James’ friends perceived theatre. nabokov wanted to be short, cheap, accessible and relevant. Isn’t that what we all want? So why is it so hard?
There is a lack of producers, the people who know how to make something cheap and accessible. They know how to force it into existence. That was the panel’s favourite go to response. The shortness and relevance, that up to the people that make the content. If it’s relevant then you must force it into existence. Give each piece of work a mission statement. “If it didn’t exist you’d have to invent it…” Their energy and urgency was inspiring.
I asked a question as a playwright: where am I safest? Would I be better off in company or sending my work off to companies? Yes I know I’m using a lot of questions marks. Just shh for a minute. Honestly, yes. You are probably better off as a producer of your own work. James made a bold statement. Drama schools should take a hiatus. Those who want to enter the arts should learn to be a producer instead. When I was a theatre technician and I was having a rough day, I remember was a seasoned techie told me: “Without us, you’d have naked, cold actors on stage in the dark.”
We got to the subject of money eventually. It was inevitable. Stef O’Driscoll, Associate Director at Paines Plough, spoke of trying to produce a play ‘When Women Wee’. There was a lightbulb moment of getting money though product placement. They managed to take the show to Edinburgh and every audience member left with a Shewee: The Original Female Urination Device since 1999. Genius. Yes, the only way to get money is to ask. Remember, you’re asking for the work not yourself. If you believe in the work, that it’s relevant and needs to be force into existence, then there’s nothing that can stop you.