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Brief Encounter with... Theatre503 artistic directors Paul Robinson and Tim Roseman

By • West End
Tim Roseman and Paul Robinson are the joint artistic directors of Theatre503 in Battersea.

As well as directing numerous shows at 503,  Roseman's past credits include The Arab-Israeli Cookbook (Gate/Tricycle), What Didn't Happen (Old Vic) and 90 Minutes (Southwark Playhouse).

Robison was previously was associate director of the Royal Court's now-legendary Rock'n'Roll alongside Trevor Nunn, as well as Falstaff and Edmond at the National Theatre and Hello and Goodbye at the Southwark Playhouse. As of September 2012, Robison will be taking up sole directorship of the venue.

Life for Beginners, which they are jointly directing, forms the centrepiece of their final season together at Theatre 503, which opens on 7 September 2012 (previews from 4 September). Here they tell us a little bit more about this project and the rest of the upcoming season at 503.


Tell us about Life for Beginners.

We wanted to create a joyful, celebratory piece of theatre to mark the end of our joint tenure - we wanted it to be bigger and bolder than anything we'd done before, and we wanted to bring back some of the artists who have done amazing work here over the last six years. Life for Beginners is an epic piece of storytelling that follows the lives of multiple Londoners and finds a little magic in each of them. It's moving and heartfelt but with big splashes of comedy too - it leaves a smile on your face.

LfB is a big creative collaboration (five writers and two directors) - is it a challenge knitting it all together?

Oh yes - it started with months of really complicated script meetings and dramaturgy; now we're running two and sometimes three rehearsal rooms at once and putting in a fair few 11-hour days. Make no mistake - it's a big, challenging show. But very rewarding when it all starts to flow together. Just about everyone we have working on the show is ridiculously talented, which really helps - the quality of writing is brilliant and the cast are a dream.

Is it an especially emotional experience bringing together so many 503 luminaries for the show?

It's wonderful to be working with so many people we love and respect, and with whom we have so many happy memories of previous 503 shows. And of course it's quite emotional knowing that this is Tim's last show and the end of an era, but it's great to be sharing that with a lot of the collaborators who've made our time here so special.

Tell us some more about the rest of the season.

Well, we'll be introducing our group of resident playwrights, the 503Five - Brad Birch, Jon Brittain, Charlene James, Gemma Langford and Chris Urch - with Shhhh..., a night of short plays that the five of them are writing inspired by secrets that audience members have left anonymously in a box in the foyer.

Our full-length plays for the autumn are Elegy - a hard-hitting piece conceived and directed by Douglas Rintoul, about homophobic violence in liberated Iraq - and I Know Where The Mangrove Grows, a haunting first play by Joe Hammond directed by the phenomenal Tamara Harvey.

The "rapid write response" has become a regular format - what inspired it?

The Rapid Write concept was originally about writing a full-length play very quickly, in a matter of weeks, as a response to topical events and then putting it straight into rehearsal. The present format has brand new playwrights write a 10-minute response piece to our current show that is then staged during the run on the set. The Rapid Write Response Nights are one of the best ways for Theatre503 to discover and engage with new writing, directing and acting talent. It enables a few dozen more emerging writers each year to get their work on our stage and start building professional relationships with directors and actors.

Paul - how do you think Theatre503 will change with you as sole artistic director?

I gain immense strength from the artistic vision, energy and commitment Tim has injected into the theatre and the work we have created together. Now that we have worked so hard to establish 503 I'm thrilled by a raft of new possibilities and will relish making the theatre bolder and braver than ever. I'm really excited about a new era and can promise that 503 will continue to be a vital destination for the most exhilarating new writing. I'm currently putting the finishing touches to the 2013 opening season so stay tuned for the announcement to find out what's in store.

What do you think has characterised your time as joint ADs of 503? Any particular highlights?

A lot has happened in the last six years - we've premiered full productions of 48 new plays and presented work by 140 first-time writers; audiences have increased threefold. Crucially we've worked to put writers at the centre of everything we do at Theatre503 - we encourage playwrights to voice their thoughts and concerns to us, most accessibly in our annual open space writers' nights when anyone can come along and discuss the issues that matter to them with us and our senior team. We listen to what playwrights have to say and we make our strategic decisions accordingly.

In terms of highlights, of course we were all thrilled when 503 became the smallest theatre ever to win the Olivier Award for Best New Play for The Mountaintop. But it's been just as thrilling to see our auditorium fuller and fuller and people from the local community take 503 to their hearts.

Tim - what will we see from you in future?

Immediately after the Life For Beginners press night, I'm leaving for 4 months in Australia, where I'm actually directing a Rapid Write format play - a full-length play written in just 4 weeks - for the Griffin Theatre in Sydney, and a new play by Ben Ellis for the National Institute for Dramatic Art. And going to the beach a bit. When I get back to the UK I'll be freelancing.


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