Although I had been working with my own company since 2016, I have learned so much from my first experience in the role of artistic director at a theatre.
I took over in March at the Lion and Unicorn, a 60-seat theatre above the pub of the same name in Kentish Town, London, where we have just finished our first season and are about to launch our second. It all started when Proforça put on successful productions of our London themed plays Feel and Feel More at the venue.
Reviews and audiences were very good, but when I received a phone call asking me to go to a meeting at the theatre, I assumed we were just going to be asked to run another event. As it turned out, the contract was up for renewal and we were offered the chance to take over and run the space.
The first season has been a brilliant opportunity to meet people and set out our manifesto. We have a lovely team as well as some great support from all areas of the industry. It’s also been hard work, sometimes stressful and with very long hours. The lesson I have learned from this new role is that asking for help is key to make sure you don’t get overwhelmed, along with delegating more, and not trying to do a million things at once. There’s always a tendency to be too hard on yourself.
Like everyone managing fringe theatres, I have learned that there is never enough time or money, but also that very bad days can quickly turn into very good ones, so never assume you know the full story until you’re looking at it from the perspective of the day after. The best piece of advice I’ve ever been given was: “Always assume best intentions in every interaction you have.” Theatre people should always try to realise why they make the work they do, so this advice helps me to see the best in every person and situation, and proved particularly apt when slinging together my first theatre season.
Training: Warwick University
Theatre includes: At Last, Feel and Feel More (Lion and Unicorn Theatre, London), The Space (King’s Head Theatre and UK Tour), Reading Gaol (Theatre N16, London), Saucy Jack and the Space Vixens, If I Go.
Other credits: artistic director – Lion and Unicorn Theatre, Kentish Town and Proforça Theatre Company
David Brady was talking to John Byrne. Season Two at the Lion and Unicorn runs from August to December. Details: thelionandunicorntheatre.com