Interview with writer and director Toby Hulse

"I have been coming to Edinburgh for nearly forty years now, and it never disappoints."

Interview with writer and director Toby Hulse

Hello!

Could you first introduce yourself to the reader? 

I am Toby Hulse, one of the three core members of Roustabout Theatre. I wrote and directed our current show, Dinosaurs and All That Rubbish.

How would you describe your show?

Dinosaurs and All That Rubbish is adapted from a picture book by Michael Foreman. It features dinosaurs, space travel, and rock’n’roll and has a strong message about sustainability. The picture book is aimed at three to seven-year-olds, but the show is very much for all ages. 

Why do you want to perform at Edinburgh Festival Fringe?

The Edinburgh Festival Fringe is quite simply the greatest celebration of live performance in the world. In the space of just two hours, you can see the best and the worst shows of your life. I have been coming to Edinburgh for nearly forty years now, and it never disappoints. 

What differentiates it from other festivals?

Participation is self-selected; there are no entry criteria. Anything and everything goes. If you have something that you want to share with an audience, and you can get to Scotland in August, the opportunity is here, especially with the rise of the Free Fringe. And the sheer scale of it is breathtaking: every available space is utilised and crammed with shows, from early in the morning to late in the evening, for four weeks. It’s a festival like no other.

What first motivated you to enter the industry? Who were your inspirations?

Like most other theatre makers, I can’t imagine doing anything else. I have always put on shows, watched, and imagined shows I would like to make. I believe that every human has a way of interpreting the world and expressing their understanding of it. Some people do this through mathematics, politics, or history. It so happens that I see everything as stories that need to be performed.

How has your background, upbringing and education had an impact on your artistic career? 

My father worked in theatre admin. This meant that I spent a lot of time front-of-house, and when the long summer holidays came, we were often plonked in front of whatever happened to be going on in the theatre that day. I loved school and did very well in academic terms – reading and listening happened to suit me as a learner. This meant that I was lucky enough to meet all sorts of weird and wonderful brains. I also did school plays, was a member of a local youth theatre, and spent a lot of time at university putting on shows. That just happens to be my journey. There are as many ways into the industry as there are people working in it.

What is your earliest childhood art memory?

The Sooty and Sweep Show, live onstage, at the Fairfield Halls in Croydon.  

If you didn’t have your current job, what would you probably be doing?

I trained to be a primary school teacher and taught Nursery and Reception for six years. I absolutely loved the job and would very happily return to it at any point.

Did Covid-19 change the way you create work? Do you approach shows with a different mentality now? 

Lockdown gave Roustabout the chance to explore the digital and online performance world. We worked very hard to try and recreate the live, interactive, responsive nature of our theatre shows on Zoom, and I think we were rather successful. Lockdown also gave us a lot of time to reflect on what is important, unique, and defining about what we do. And it opened up a lot of other opportunities for us: we now have a strand of our work that is created specifically for online audiences, and we are delighted about how accessible and affordable this has made our shows.

Describe the last year in 5 words or less?

Frantically catching up.

Do you subscribe to the idea that art should be exempt from ‘cancel culture’? 

No. I am a passionate supporter of free speech and the right to formulate our own views. However, this does not give anyone the right to deny others the freedom to be who they are. I would happily ‘cancel’ someone who was seeking to cancel others.

If you could work with anybody, from any point in history, who would you pick and why?

I would have loved to have worked with Ken Campbell, particularly when he was touring the Ken Campbell Road Show. He celebrated nonsense, eccentricity, and risk-taking stupidity with a terrifying passion and commitment. Virtually nothing was out-of-bounds if it was, in his words, a ‘caper’. He launched the careers of, amongst others, Bill Nighy, Jim Broadbent, and Sylvester McCoy. He represents everything that I love about live performance.

What advice would you give to someone who wants to take a show up to the fringe?

Take a risk. Do the show that you want to do. Believe in it. Learn to celebrate failure. And when you are at the Fringe, see as much as you possibly can. There is always something to be learned.

When and where can people see your show?

Dinosaurs and All That Rubbish is on at Assembly George Square Studios, Studio Two, at 10 am, from August 4th to August 21st. After a short break, we are then touring the show around the country in September and October.

And where can people find, follow and like you online?

Our website is www.roustabouttheatre.co.uk and our socials are all @weareroustabout


Dinosaurs and All That Rubbish is on at Assembly George Square Studios, Studio Two, at 10 am, from August 4th to August 21st. For tickets and more information, visit https://www.edfringe.com

Header Image Credit: aduguidpr

Author

Saskia Calliste

Saskia Calliste Voice Team

Saskia is the Assistant Editor of Voice and has worked on campaigns such as International Women’s Day, Black History Month, and Anti-Bullying Week. Outside of Voice, Saskia is a published author (Hairvolution) and has guest featured in various other publications (The Women Writers’ Handbook/ Cosmopolitan). She has a BA in Creative Writing and Journalism and an MA in Publishing. She is a mentor for Women of the World Global, has guest lectured at the University of Roehampton and has led seminars on Race, Equality and Diversity. She is 26-years-old, based in London, and loves to cook and explore new places in her spare time.

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