BSC Address

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Choosing Plays

I'm often asked how I chose the plays we produce. They come to me in a variety of ways but some of the more curious include:

FANTASTIC MR FOX, which began our enduring relationship with Roald Dahl. When I left the Bristol Old Vic Theatre School my first job was an amazing season at The Haymarket in Basingstoke. Laertes in HAMLET, Yasha in THE CHERRY ORCHARD, Tim in NOISES OFF and Mean Mr Bean in FANTASTIC MR FOX. When I launched the company in Birmingham four years later I really wanted something different to the usual Christmas fare, and then I remembered how much I'd enjoyed FANTASTIC MR FOX. It was a good decision: 17,500 people poured the theatre, which hadn't had a Christmas show for 20 years. Now we play to over 40,000 each Christmas - not too bad for a venue that seats 376.

CAT ON A HOT TIN ROOF, our first anniversary show which sealed the arrival of the BSC in Brum. I took a friend to see a show at The Royal Exchange and noticed in the programme that three of the actors had been in CAT ON A HOT TIN ROOF. I asked my friend if the play was any good. When she told me it was one of the best plays she knew, I sort of decided it would be right for us. When the director I had in mind confirmed her opinion, it was a done deal. I definitely got round to reading it a week later.

SPEED-THE-PLOW, one of the favourite productions we've produced. On a visit to Samuel French bookshop, I thought I had bought THE PLOUGH AND THE STARS. On the train back to Birmingham, I thought "this isn't very Irish". By the time I arrived at New Street Station I'd fallen in love with the play and phoned John Harrison from the platform to ask if he'd read it for me. They don't come much better. (Never did get round to reading THE PLOUGH AND THE STARS).

PROOF, another favourite. I saw the original production on Broadway with Mary Louise Parker. I've never experienced such a sensational Act One curtain. Throughout the interval I dreamed of producing a West End production of the show. It remained a dream until six years later we ended up at The Arts. Sally Oliver made her professional debut as our lead, now in EMMERDALE.

SKELLIG, our current joy! I couldn't get a ticket to see The Young Vic production. Neither could anyone else. I tried for five years to get the rights, which seemed to bounce from producer to producer and never saw the light of day. I got used to ringing every six months to see if my luck would change. It did. A producer was about to let go the rights and I grabbed them, with both hands, to stage the first production since the Young Vic. It's a mystery why such great plays don't get back to the stage, but I'm not complaining - it's been one of the treats of 2008 and there's still two weeks in London to go!

Feel free to suggest any ideas you have. I almost certainly haven't thought of them!

Monday, October 27, 2008


The BSC is in Dubai this week with ELMER THE ELEPHANT! There's been a lot of new work on the show including a new score and two new songs, so we're excited to see what the sold-out houses in Dubai are going to make of it. It should be a fun week.

This is our fifth visit to Dubai: THE JUNGLE BOOK, GEORGE'S MARVELLOUS MEDICINE, KENSUKE'S KINGDOM, HORRIBLE HISTORIES and now ELMER. A great experience for all those lucky enough to get the gig.

Meanwhile SKELLIG is selling fantastically well in London. We open next Tuesday and run to 13 November. The author has been to see us and is coming again in London. It's wonderful to have the author around when you're staging their work - feels like we're all in it together.

Catch it if you can - and come and see ELMER is you're down this way!

Saturday, October 11, 2008


A great show, full houses, excellent reviews - it looks like we've got a hit!

Friday, October 03, 2008


Interesting article about the BSC's forthcoming production of SKELLIG on the Birmingham Post's online site, which goes on to say:

"The production is yet another example of the special touch BSC brings to children's shows. I always find it odd that the company seems to be lauded far more outside Brum for the excellence of its work - Skellig transfers to London in November - and the words 'prophet' and 'own country' spring to mind".

For sixteen years I've been the only person from Birmingham running a major theatre company in Birmingham - yet we've always been taken more seriously outside of Brum than in it! I take heart that Sir Barry Jackson had exactly the same problem when he created the Birmingham Rep in 1913! Birmingham suffers from an inverse snobbery - that no-one from Birmingham could be as fine as someone from outside the city. Being the second biggest city is our greatest curse - constantly suffering the unspoken notion that we're second best. When, I wonder, will it change.

Full article at