Orla, Brighton Festival’s Theatre Producer was previously the General Manager at the Gate Theatre in Notting Hill, London so, while she is no stranger to the occasional enormous public event taking place on her doorstep, this is the first time that she finds herself right in the middle of it all. I managed to grab a few minutes in her incredibly busy schedule to see how she getting to grips with her new position.


With just a few days to go until the festival now, how is it going?
Well, it’s all very busy as you can imagine but things are looking very positive for the theatre program. There are still more tickets to be purchased but, for some of our more popular events, they are going fast – or already gone. dreamthinkspeak with their new show The Rest is Silence, for example, sold out their entire Brighton Festival run, but they have added more performances after the festival finishes, for which there are tickets, so there is still a chance for those who can’t get to see it during the festival.


I’m really excited by that performance, as I think the rest of Brighton is, and I am actually going to the warehouse down at Shoreham this week to get a sense of the set. It will be really exciting to see it as it progresses and then some of us will be going along to the dress rehearsal before it opens to the public as well.


It’s very interesting how theatre venues just pop-up for the festival.

Absolutely, and I think that’s a really intrinsic part of the Brighton Festival’s identity in terms of using spaces that are not usually used in the city, and then taking them apart and putting a different face on them. It’s also about showing the public a place that is not generally accessible, certainly not for a theatrical production anyway.


Another show that I am really excited about is called Land’s End by a company called Berlin from Belgium. They are coming to perform in the Old Municipal Market which is Brighton’s old fruit and vegetable market. I think it’s going to be a terrific show and it will be great to be in the audience as they will get the opportunity to meander around through the space and take it all in. There is a real atmosphere when you use spaces like that because they are so different. You know, for the audience it is such a different feeling because the physical element of being in a space like that is so intriguing. In a way it provides an atmosphere that traditional theatre spaces can’t.


It’s amazing to see that even the derelict Black Rock area is being included.

Yes, Generik Vapeur are performing down there with the UK Premiere of a work we co-commissioned, called Waterlitz, which is one of the Brighton Festivals many free events.  Over in Hove Park we’ve also got No Fit State doing another massive free event, called Barricade, as well. Both of those will be terrific, very exciting, shows. I’ve seen some production photos and they look amazing. So we have tremendous events to look forward to all around the city.


As far as ticket sales go, do you get a lot of late bookers?

Yes, we do find that on quite a lot of the shows. We also do the Festival Standby on a lot of shows so, if there are any tickets left, they can be bought on the day. On the website and in the brochure it shows which events that applies to and I think that, if there is maybe a production that you’re not sure if you really want to see, it’s well worth trying that out because £10 is a pretty good deal. It’s also worth looking through the brochure because a lot of the outdoor and family events are free.


It does seem that there is much more in the way of family shows this year. 

I’ve programmed a few of those myself, yes. I only joined the festival in January, which is quite late in relation to the state of programming really, but I still had time to add a few more family events like Circus Klezmer. That’s a beautiful family show featuring a lot of clowning and acrobatics and it has a really charming narrative, although no language is used. It’s a Spanish based company but the artists are really international and I think it will be a really nice show for the younger audiences.


I also programmed Smashed which will appear at the Theatre Royal. They all joke, here in the office, that everyone in Brighton is, or wants to be, a juggler. This is the perfect show for them, for younger people, and for people who want to see a dance show with a difference and also those people who are not ready to see some of the heavier contemporary dance productions.


Has your Guest Director had a positive impact on this year’s festival?    

Certainly. I am aware, from all the people I talk to, that everyone knows Vanessa Redgrave because she has been so incredible, not only in her own career in theatre and in film, but also in her role with UNICEF. She is seen in many guises and I think that certainly resonates with people and they realise she is an incredible performer.


One of the shows I am working on is A World I Loved, which she is directing and narrating, and that will be an incredible opportunity to see her in a one-off performance. I have been lucky enough to see her perform before on stage and she just transformed the piece and was really amazing.


She’s also going to be very visible throughout the festival as well. She is leading the traditional opening event, the Children’s Parade and then there is the BAFTA event – Vanessa Redgrave CBE: A life in pictures – and A World I Loved. She’s also introducing some other events like one of the lunchtime classical concerts.  


I hope people won’t be too surprised if they pass her in the street during the festival. I think it’s really brilliant for us to have someone who is that visible, and it’s absolutely fantastic to have such a talented and passionate person leading us into, what we really hope will be, the most successful festival ever.


Brighton Festival takes place from 5 - 27 May at venues throughout the city. A full colour brochure is available from all arts venues and many other shops and businesses. Tickets can be purchased via the Ticket Office on New Road, over the phone or by visiting the website.