Could you first introduce yourself for the reader?
Theatre Nation is a professional theatre company based in Hastings. It consists of Artistic Director Patrick Kealey and Writer/Producer Tom Daldry. We are committed to creating powerful, expressive and exciting adaptations of classic works, and to staging bold and original new writing.
Since being founded in 2017 our core remit has been to provide educational, professional and creative employment opportunities for young people, students and early career theatre artists. We achieve this through acting/directing workshops, as well as through offering professional experience (under a ‘mentorship’ approach) in a range of areas: from performing to costuming, technical design and producing.
Our 2018 Arts Council-funded tour of Hamlet enabled young people to actively gain experience in the industry. Our current production of Samuel Beckett’s heart-wrenching Waiting for Godot will follow a similar approach and will tour in Spring 2020.
What happens at the organisation?
A range of things, depending on the phase of production. 90% of our time is spent in pre-production mode: fundraising, meetings, writing emails – all to get us into the rehearsal room!
As we’re committed to working with various artists, we like to meet people working in a variety of arts disciplines. For example, we’re working with a sculptor and Butoh dance choreographer on Waiting for Godot.
When we’re staging a larger-scale production, Patrick takes the directing role (as well as sometimes acting), and Tom will deal with logistics. We find that we work well as a team because our different skill-sets complement one another.
What do you offer to young people?
We aspire to offer employment opportunities to young professional theatre artists. Past projects have involved working with young musicians, costume and set designers and technicians, and offering professional rates of pay. For example, in Godot we will be engaging a young actor to play the role of the Boy and therefore give the opportunity for an aspiring actor to work with a professional company. We’re also committed to mentoring aspiring young professionals. Our company grew out of Patrick’s mentoring relationship with Tom so we feel this is a vital part of our organisation.
Alongside this we run educational workshops to schools, colleges and youth theatres on acting and writing.
What activities are most popular for young people and why?
One imagines that young people might want to perform, but there are many career pathways in the creative arts. As an example, we work with a wonderful young sound designer, who also happens to be a great performer. These days it’s more possible to have a portfolio career and have a range of skills.
Tom, who is co-founder of the organisation, is both an emerging writer and also a talented young producer. Learning production skills has been invaluable to him in understanding how the industry works (and how to write!).
Could you give an example of a recent project you have run, and the impact it had?
Our first major project was a new musical called Paris Snow, which Patrick directed and wrote. We had the opportunity to work with an inspiring music teacher who brought a school party to the show, prompted by us leading a songwriting workshop at her school.
After the schools’ matinee she came to us very excited and announced that one of the boys in her group had exclaimed on seeing the show ‘Miss, I now know what I want to do with my life.’ It was at this moment that I think both myself and Tom realised what an incredible impact the arts can have on kids who don’t normally have access to ambitious work.
Have you seen any change in the industry over the last few years? Is it positive or negative?
As a practitioner who’s been working for over forty years, one of the biggest changes I’ve seen is the way in which young people manage their careers in the arts. In the past, you found yourself a manager or an agent and for the most part waited to be introduced or to get auditions. In contrast, the current generation of performers are much more proactive in the way they approach the business.
I think because of the development of so many MA courses in theatre, aspiring performers are encouraged to develop their own work. I’ve worked with lots of young actors recently who have started their own theatre companies and are developing and devising solo and group projects.
However, the negative side is that government funding cuts have impacted the arts. Anybody aspiring to a life in the arts (apart from the traditional qualities of stamina and the ability to withstand constant disappointment), need to be ingenious and imaginative about how to promote themselves. These days many major theatres, for example, would expect you to have a high social media profile as part of your identity as an actor.
Is there anything you particularly want to promote to young people at the moment?
We’re particularly interested in encouraging pathways into the arts where we live. It’s not an aspiration that’s readily offered for young people from disadvantaged backgrounds. One of the ways we’ll do this is by working with schools and bringing workshops directly to them as part of their enrichment. The purpose of this is to inspire young people to see that a career and a life in the arts is possible for them; there doesn’t need to be any distinction between them and the people who are successful in the industry.
We’re currently working on Waiting for Godot, and are keen to run workshops with interested organisations and youth theatres. We particularly want to deliver these in areas where we’ll be touring (southern England tour March/April/May 2020).
Where can people find out more about the work you do?
The best way at the moment is to check out our website, for a flavour of our past projects: www.theatrenation.org
Photo credit: Peter Mould.