Earlier this week I saw a production of Howard Brenton’s fine play, Anne Boleyn and I was really pleased to catch up with this sparky, thoughtful Jacobean ghost story, having missed it at the Globe in 2010 and 2011.
Even more interesting though, is that this was a drama school production in a partnership residency with a venue. Rose Bruford College is producing three plays at Stratford Circus. The other two are The God of Soho by Chris Hannan (March 3–5) and Sondheim’s Into The Woods (March 13–15).
Stratford Circus seems to be a bit of a secret. I was quite surprised on Monday to meet two people I know well there, an agent and a producer, both of whom told me they’d never been to Stratford Circus before. So bringing in students will help to widen the audience base of this excellent venue which is already building good audiences, many of them first time theatre goers, locally. But it still needs to be better known.
As for Rose Bruford, it’s obviously a terrific bonus for the students to be working in a commercial theatre where performances are attended by local people as well as college groupies. But it goes a lot further than that. Before the show I had a chat with principal, Michael Earley.
“In searching for a venue for our spring season we have developed a partnership with Stratford Circus that will work on a number of levels as their ‘university in residence’” he says, adding that in addition to the extended four-week season of final year work known as the College’s “London Season,” the College will rent Stratford Circus’s facilities and offer there, for the second time, a summer school on technical theatre for local students and young apprentices.
“We shall also do some of our Theatre for Young Audiences work (both BA and MA) at Stratford Circus” says Earley. And this is interesting too. I have several times highlighted the innovative work of Filskit Theatre Company for young audiences. The three women involved in that are Rose Bruford graduates and Stratford Circus has been hosting and supporting their shows. So that’s another clear link.
Earley tells me that Rose Bruford also plans to collaborate with Stratford Circus on specific projects including joint fundraising related to local community outreach work, engagement, theatre for children, and skills development.
“As you might know,” he says
Newham and the surrounding area is one of London’s richest multicultural catchments. So our joint aim is to use the arts, and theatre in particular, to enrich lives and development opportunities for young people who may not have viewed the arts and theatre as pathways to vocational careers. Rose Bruford’s long history of community engagement is something we want to do in partnership with other institutions as the College finds means to go beyond its Sidcup, Southeast London base.
Bravo. Never let it be said that the world of Rose Bruford ends at Sidcup station or that there’s anything exclusive about its work.
There’s another reason why the Rose Bruford/Stratford Circus collaboration is good news as far as I’m concerned. Rose Bruford was partnered with Unicorn Theatre under Tony Graham’s artistic directorship there. When Purni Morell arrived at Unicorn as artistic director in 2011 she had different ideas and the partnership foundered so I’m pleased to see it emerge in a different form elsewhere.
It’s a promising way of working. Are the other drama schools which don’t already do this looking and listening?