In 2017, writer, actor and director Scott Howland set up theatre company Nothing to Perform with director, actor and producer Harriet Taylor. Howland tells Giverny Masso about the company, which focuses on new work and amplifying working-class voices…
How did you get into theatre?
I’m from the North East and originally started acting at Durham College. It was particularly good training and got me interested in the industry. The first time I came down to London was for the National Youth Theatre. That was a bit of an eye opener because I realised that all these other theatre kids were a lot more prepared than I was. I went to university in Manchester and studied performing arts, then became an English and drama teacher. When I was 18, I got on to the foundation course at RADA, but I simply couldn’t afford to move down to London. I took a job as a teacher instead. I was teaching sixth form students and talking about getting into drama school, and realised I still wanted to do it myself. I eventually made the move when I came down and did an MA at RADA.
Tell me about some of the works you have written.
My first play was called Nothing to Perform and is where our company got its name from. It was about a group of young working-class lads who work in the performing arts department of a university and write a play thinking: “If these kids can do it, why can’t we?”. My second piece was a musical called Meiwes/Brandes. It’s a true story based on two guys from Germany, one of whom ate the other. It was experimental and we performed it at the 2018 RADA festival. Then we had the iteration of the play Grip, which was picked up for a week-long run at the Tristan Bates Theatre in London, before playing at the International Youth Arts Festival in Kingston where it won the Audience Choice award.
What is the next play you are writing for Nothing to Perform?
It will be based on the story of Helen Sharman, who was the first British astronaut in space. Most people have heard of Tim Peake, but Sharman went up in the late 1980s and because it was a part Soviet-funded mission, she is virtually unknown to the general public.
What else does Nothing to Perform do?
None of what we do would be possible without the help of the Cockpit Theatre in Marylebone, where we’re associate artists. We host monthly networking events, called networkshops, which we’re really proud of because these are free. We have these every month and hold them in different locations, with the majority of them at the Cockpit. We also provide 100% of the London Film School’s actors to the MA screenwriting and the film-making cohort. It pays £100 a day and offers frequent work. We have a core team of four, but we have a team of 300-plus associate artists and are growing every day.
Training: BA in performing arts at Salford University (2008-11), MA in text and performance at RADA (2016-17)
First professional role: Theatre in education work with Hope Theatre Company (2011)
Agent: Actors Direct
More information on Nothing to Perform’s upcoming productions here: nothingtoperform.com