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Tobacco Road director Roberta Zuric: ‘We like to call the show the Peaky Blinders of the stage’

Director Roberta Zuric. Photo: Andi Sapey Director Roberta Zuric. Photo: Andi Sapey

Roberta Zuric regularly works with Incognito Theatre Company, which focuses on creating physical theatre. Zuric tells Giverny Masso about Incognito’s latest show, Tobacco Road, which she describes as the “Peaky Blinders of the stage”…

Tell me about Tobacco Road…

We were really interested in what was happening in 1920s London between the wars. We had just done a war play and our research always leads us from project to project. London was organised by gangs and we were interested in the cycle of violence and how it’s hard to live another life once you get tied up in it. We also looked at the idea of disenfranchised young people and what happens when society turns its back. In our research we found loads of interesting stories, including a female gang called Annie and the Diamonds that was based in Elephant and Castle, and we’ve tied those stories together and made our own fictional gang called Tobacco Road. We like to call the show the Peaky Blinders of the stage.

How did you get into directing?

I started off wanting to be an actor and then found at university that I enjoyed being behind the scenes. I did National Youth Theatre while I was at university and met other people who were on the same page as me. Doing facilitation with them made me realise how much I enjoyed running a room and the rehearsal processes. When I graduated I fell into teaching secondary school drama and I directed on the side. I took the leap and went freelance two and a half years ago.

Tobacco Road review at Pleasance Courtyard, Edinburgh – ‘appreciably ambitious’

What happened after you went freelance?

I worked with Incognito and we adapted All Quiet on the Western Front – the war novel. That was fun and it did really well at the Edinburgh Fringe, and we then got invited to take it to New York for two weeks. I’ve continued to work with Incognito, and I’ve also worked with a touring company called Librarian Theatre, which brings theatre to communities that don’t usually have access to it.

What other directing experience have you had?

I’ve also done some assisting work with the Royal Shakespeare Company, we toured Julius Caesar to theatres and schools around the country. This is alongside continuing my work with young people, with theatres including the Donmar Warehouse and the Almeida Theatre. Young people keep me sane and they challenge me.

What have you got coming up?

I’m creating a new show for the summer with Incognito and also continuing to work with young people with the Donmar and the Almeida – I’ve got some really exciting things coming up.

CV: Roberta Zuric

Training: BA drama at the University of Greenwich (2008-11); National Youth Theatre (2009)
First professional role: Director in residence at James Allen’s Girls’ School
in London (2001)
Agent: None

Tobacco Road runs at Vault Festival in London from February 13-17. More information is available at: vaultfestival.com

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