Lucy Bailey & Anda Winters On... The Print RoomDate: 11 November 2010
It sounds like madness, arrogance even, to launch a new theatre as venues across the country face up to funding cuts and the threat of closure. But this week director Lucy Bailey and longterm arts supporter Anda Winters opened the doors to The Print Room, a self-funded 80-seat studio space in the heart of Notting Hill. Three years in the making, the theatre launches with Fabrication, a little known play by controversial Italian film maker Pier Paolo Pasolini, newly translated by Jamie McKendrick. In a break from rehearsals, Bailey and Winters told us more.
What brought the two of you together on this project?
Anda Winters: We wanted to have a home of our own so we could really express what we like and want to do.We're very great friends and when I saw Lucy's work for the first time, I thought: my goodness this is the work of a genius. Very brave and very different.
What made this building the right fit for you?
AW: We both wanted a warehouse, something that was not a typical theatre, not another room above a pub. A friend said: 'Why don't you look at this place next door to my studio. It's been empty for 15 years.' We walked in and it felt as if life had paused in this place. Everything was dusty and dirty and trees and vines were literally growing through the windows. Honestly, it was as though time had stopped.
Why choose to open with a little-known Pasolini play?
LB: I sometimes wonder if I'm rather odd! Most people don't know Pasolini wrote plays, even the Italians. But I've always identified hugely with the sensuality in his work and the imaginative landscapes he provides. Also the oddness with which he views people. A lot of what he talks about is very primal, whether it be possession, jealousy, or sexual attraction even in taboo areas. He pushes it to the next level but if you analyse it, these are basic instincts we all recognise.
So, an obvious first choice for the theatre?
LB: Yes. Sometimes I've said: 'Are we doing a mad thing here?' But Anda will say: 'Nonsense'. I've spent 20 years trying to get this play put on, taking it along to artistic directors and expecting them to go: 'Wow!' Not a bit of it. People are baffled and frustrated and frightened by it. But we do feel it's right. We're trying to nail our colours to the mast by our choice. It's not just a piece of lovely entertainment. It's also very challenging. We don't want to be doing shows that other theatres are doing. We want to mix it up, without feeling we always have to pour the jelly in the same mould. This is our space and the great luxury is that we're not answering to a remit. At other theatres, you ask yourself: can I fulful what they need me to fulfil and am I the right person for that. The dialogue here has been: what would we like to do? And that's been really liberating.
Does that freedom come from being self-funded?
LB: It means we can be experimental in the true sense of the word, yes. We only have to answer to ourselves. We know our core work is going to be theatre but we want to surprise people with what we can put beside each other. Like our two opening plays. It still makes me laugh that we're following a Pasolini play with an Ayckbourn. It may get harder, of course, when people don't turn up! But the proof of the pudding has to be in the work. If you're not doing the work you want to do then god save you.
What has been the biggest challenge of the last three years?
LB: There's always going to be a tension between the work we're trying to do and the bigger work involved in keeping the theatre buoyant. There are so many stresses : getting the licence for starters. Talking to enough people that they were encouraged to drop their objections to the space. Then, the more pragmatic concerns. You should have seen us two weeks ago when it was raining and we discovered this solid roof ain't so solid!
What makes it worth it in the end?
AW: Good white wine in the fridge! Don't put that down...
Fabrication runs at the The Print Room until 4 Dec 2010. For more information and tickets see here.