When you declare boldly to fellow actors over a glass of wine that you’re going to leave them behind in the melee of London to go it alone and create your own theatre company, you receive hugs, handshakes and not a few raised eyebrows. Small bursts of creativity and independence amongst actors are pretty commonplace, but the proportion of projects that ever make it off the drawing board and onto the stage is discouragingly small.
And so, finding ourselves Evolve Artists in Residence at Oxford Playhouse can sometimes feel too good to be true. Our first few weeks have been absolutely incredible; we’ve been welcomed warmly by everybody in the theatre and made to feel that we’re part of the building. We’re still getting used to the idea that we can call up such knowledgeable people and they’ll not only respond remarkably promptly to our email, but they’ll invite us out for coffee as well!
We started the company because, frankly, our professional lives after drama school just didn’t live up to the hype. For Robin, his musical talents meant that he was frequently far too useful to be taken out of the ensemble of Musical Theatre shows that, truth be told, were not where his passions lay. While I found that the budgets for the jobs I took were so squeezed that we were left with almost no time to mount huge projects under great strain. Far from being creative endeavours, actors typically were presented with a pre-conceived vision and told to make it happen come hell or high water: not the creative life I was hoping for. It seemed the only way forward was to break with our old lives and create the theatre that we’d always wanted to be a part of.
When we embarked upon establishing the company, finding ourselves in this privileged scenario didn’t even cross our minds. We began with £300 of our own money, which we spent on hiring a church hall in Summertown and paying our actor friends’ expenses so that we could hold an initial research and development week. To have graduated from that to receiving the support and approbation of such incredible theatre professionals and to have the full weight of Oxford Playhouse’s celebrated name behind us is a dream. To have our (at times shaky) self-belief rewarded in this way has boosted our confidence no end and makes all our hopes for the company seem incredibly realistic!
We can’t thank the Playhouse enough for this opportunity. You can guarantee that we’ll be grabbing it with both hands and rinsing it for all it’s worth! Ooh, steady. Did I mention we’re a bit keen?