(This blog post began life as part of the Tower Theatre Company newsletter and was first published in early June 2015. NB – At the time we were already fully aware of the audition outcome but had been sworn to secrecy until the national press launch which was still a fortnight away)
As we await the audition results, one of the more unexpected but very rewarding aspects of participating in the Play For A Nation project was the meeting I attended with Emmeline Winterbotham and some overseas visitors in the foyer of the National Theatre last week. Emmeline had successfully steered Tower through a previous Royal Shakespeare Company project in 2012 – Open Stages. The production had been an original piece (though based on a film) called Baba Shakespeare.
Emmeline and I were there to meet representatives of the Genken Institute, a Japanese ‘think tank’ carrying out research in to the London 2012 Olympics/Paralympics and the linked cultural Olympiad. Tokyo, of course, is the host city for the 2020 Games. As the driving force of Baba Shakespeare, Emmeline was to give an overview of the Royal Shakespeare Company’s Open Stages project and I was there … well, because our director David Taylor was on holiday! Seriously, my part was to tell them all about the audition process for the Open Stages legacy project, A Play For The Nation – the touring production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream in 2016.
With their famed civility and sense of occasion our visitors plied us with gifts of exquisite postcards, jewel-like Japanese candy and (most appropriately) some traditional kabuki make up. We then outlined Tower’s history, talked about the amateur dramatic scene in the UK and learned some fascinating stuff about the Japanese theatre (did you know, for instance, that kabuki theatre was started by women?) Then Emmeline outlined the success that was the Baba Shakespeare project and how it moved from a tent in Dalston to receive the accolade of being performed at Stratford upon Avon. I talked about the latest project (still, of course, very much in its infancy) which we hoped would follow a similar route. Our visitors seemed to appreciate the time we spent with them and were clearly impressed by Tower’s commitment to the cultural life of London.
Let’s hope it has given them some ideas for community participation in Japan in five years’ time.