Q. What are the highlights of this year’s Inside Out Festival?
Far too many to mention! The festival is a snapshot of the year round programmes we’ve created here at Curve to nurture and develop talent in the region. Every single show stems from a long-term initiative we have here for artists and communities, so it seems unfair to pick favourites! The breadth of the festival is stunning, ranging from our “Breakthrough Artists” (emerging professional theatre-makers) presenting a series of brand new short, experimental shows in a brand new mini-theatre we’re building especially for them; all the way over to our Affiliate Community Group Kaine Management, presenting a celebration of choirs from across the county with hundreds of primary school students.
However, one thing I’m especially proud of is being able to present the first full-length play by our young local playwright-in-residence Ben Weatherill, entitled Chicken Dust (2 May). Ben was in fact appointed our playwright-in-residence as part of last year’s debut Inside Out Festival, and with the support of BBC Writersroom, IdeasTap and Writing East Midlands, we’ve been able to offer Ben industry-leading mentorship, funding and workshop time with actors to develop this stunning new play, which is about farm workers in the Leicestershire countryside. The play has already had a sell-out run at London’s Finborough Theatre, so it’s exciting to bring it home for the festival.
Q. I’m really looking forward to watching Shiv – what captivated you about the production and how did you know it was right for Curve?
Shiv is a beautiful play about a young Punjabi-American woman coming to terms with the death of her father, an Indian poet who moved his family to Illinois seeking a better life. I encountered the play when I read that the writer, Aditi Brennan Kapil, had just become the first ever playwright to have multiple plays longlisted for the incredibly prestigious theatre award, the James Tait Black Prize. Shiv is in fact one of a trilogy of plays that Aditi had written, each taking a Hindu myth as a starting point and thinking about what that might mean in a 21st Century Western world. I was immediately intrigued and thought that this potentially offered something quite exciting for Leicester’s diverse community. Aditi’s agent emailed me all three plays in the trilogy and I immediately fell in love with Shiv.
Q. What was it like working with Aditi Brennan Kapil? Was it easier or more difficult working with a writer based outside the UK?
Aditi’s hectic schedule in America has unfortunately meant that she’s not been able to be with us in rehearsals. I think it’s always a great shame to not have the writer in the rehearsal room when you’re working on a new play – there are so many questions and details that you spend a lot of time trying to solve yourself with the actors, which the writer could explain in three seconds! However we’ve met and talked many times throughout the process of getting the play onstage here, and Aditi very generously said in our first meeting that Shiv was a play where she felt she’d left the most space for a director to develop a production, and that she was happy for me to go off on my own journey with it. Hopefully she likes everything she’s seen!
Q. As a director of a regional theatre, what’s important to you?
I think the things I believe in are all expressed in the Inside Out Festival – a commitment to making exciting new work that nurtures creativity and talent in our local community; and which also offers stories and experiences for our audiences that reflect what is unique to us in this region. I think it’s about a theatre going beyond just being a place for people to engage as customers, but them to also become friends, partners and collaborators – if they want to!
Q. Inside Out Festival celebrates local talent – who should we be looking out for in coming years?
Every single one of our Breakthrough Companies. Another personal victory is that each one of these artists has successfully secured major Arts Council funding to develop their new projects for Inside Out, massively amplifying the impact of our own seed funding and resources. So they’re already well on their way to great things. I’ve mentioned Ben Weatherill earlier; and other names in the Curve family who will be up to great things include theatre-maker Rachael Young, recently awarded a prestigious BBC Performing Arts Fellowship and making quite a stir as part of the Southbank Centre’s Women Of The World Festival programme; spoken word artist Deborah “Debris” Stevenson, recently shortlisted for London Laureate; choreographer Joel Daniel, now Arts Council funded to make the new dance show Burden with Curve and Bristol Tobacco Factory. They are joined by 2Magpies, The Gramophones, Sheep Soup; Off The Fence and Lovers Of Literature Theatre Companies – all fearlessly making brand new theatre that is already touring the country and taking the East Midlands message out there. It’s an exciting time and I hope that people get along to see all of these formidable artists here at Curve during Inside Out from 22 Apr – 6 May.
Curve’s Inside Out Festival takes place 22 April – 6 May.
Answers by Suba Das, Curve Associate Director