BSC Address

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Tony Curtis

My friend was given Tony Curtis' new autobiography for Christmas, but before he had a chance to open it, I knicked it! And what a fabulous read it is! If you like Curtis, you'll love this book. I couldn't put it down.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008


By any reckoning, we're ending the year in pretty good shape! Today there are performances of three excellent BSC shows - JUNGLE BOOK, WHY THE WHALES CAME and ELMER, in London, Birmingham and Horsham - and we've also produced SKELLIG, GEORGE'S MARVELLOUS MEDICINE, TREASURE ISLAND, HORRIBLE HISTORIES on tour and HORRIBLE HISTORIES Nottingham. Next year beckons with plenty to get excited about!

The downturn has probably come into effect, but the last four months have performed better than I feared in September, meaning we're in no worse shape than we were when the pips started to squeak. 2009 is clearly going to be the test - I think it's going to be horrific for all businesses - including many in the business of show.

Our equally exciting plans for 2010 mean that our task is to get there! But not at any cost: I remain convinced that the only strategy worth pursuing is providing the very best theatre we can, without compromise, so our audiences can continue to trust us. That trust is probably going to be more important than ever as people choose where to spend their hard-earned cash.

2009 will be our 17th year. That's starting to feel like quite a long time. If we can keep having as much as fun as we've had over the last 17 years, then I'll be happy!

Postscript: Arena are presenting a programme on Paul Scofield tonight. I miss him.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

The Dice House

In 2003 I had the time of my life playing Dr Ratner in THE DICE HOUSE at The Arts Theatre. We first produced the play at The Old Red Lion and then took it to The Edinburgh Festival, followed by its West End run. It's always been one of my favourite theatrical experiences. And it's how I met Luke Rhinehart, Paul Lucas, Jim Low, Chris Fisher, Elizabeth Scott, Jeremy Crutchley, James Carcaterra - the list goes on.

About two months ago I was driving up the M1 when the play came into my mind and I thought how great it would be to play the other leading role in the show, the extraordinary Dr Drabble.

As sometimes seems to happen in my life, about two weeks later I got an email asking if I'd like to audition for Drabble in a fringe production of the play runing in January. I didn't need to give it a second's thought.

And so here we are, after the first week's rehearsal, and I am slipping back into the play like a fish into water. What a glorious script Paul has written - some of the best dialogue I've ever had the joy of speaking - and a lovely new cast - including a great Ratner.

Happy chances like this don't come along often - and The Dice House is all about the glory of chance!

Monday, December 15, 2008

The Year of the Understudy

It's clearly time for the understudy to take over! As the fuss continues over Hamlet's understudy Edward Bennett (who sounds like a lovely chap) we've had our own experience with THE JUNGLE BOOK, in which our lead actor had to miss several weeks of the tour - leaving the door open for his understudy to take over Mowgli. And what a wonderful job Steve Castelaz is doing. So much so that when it became clear the original actor could not return, we had absolutely no hesitation in promoting Steve to the leading role.

I agree with Edward Bennett that all producers should think seriously about their understudies and ensure they are right for the role. We've always searched hard to find the right people for this very difficult job, so much so that in previous productions, our understudy for Tom in TOM'S MIDNIGHT GARDEN went on to secure the title role when the tour went out a second time (the wonderful Cameron Slater).

As one of my mentors Nat Brenner used to say: there's no such thing as small parts, only small actors!

Friday, December 12, 2008

The Boy

Needing something to do, I popped in to watch the last 30 minutes of The Boy in the Striped Pajamas, a film I'd sort of avoided. I started crying after about 3 minutes. What a beautifully structured story and what a simple, expertly executed film.

It is still almost incomprehensible, after everything we now know, and despite the best efforts of deluded and fascistic idiots like David Irving, that a group of men went about the systematic destruction of 12 million people as if they were constructing a large housing project.

It's why films about the holocaust are so hard to pull off - and why this one is so remarkable for picking a simple story to illustrate the mind-numbing horror of what those people - people who still walk the streets of Germany today - did in the name of their Fuhrer. It's a story that can never be told enough - because it will always be impossible to properly fathom.

How did it happen? Can we really be sure it will never happen again?