Catherine Lomax explains why Stevenage has Woman in Mind
The semi-professional musicals have been going from strength to strength at the Gordon Craig Theatre over the last few years. Our local audience is incredibly loyal and supportive and, as a theatre, we wanted to offer something extra.
An Alan Ayckbour seemed an ideal choice, especially when we spoke to our Friends of the Theatre and Forum groups. Woman In Mind, which is considered by many to be one of Ayckbourn's best works, is a fantastic play and, having seen it performed before, I am a huge fan and very excited about our production.
What about it do you think will particularly appeal to your local audience?
Woman In Mind is brilliantly funny. Ayckbourn draws such wonderfully real characters that I think all audience members, irrespective of age and or background, can recognise elements of themselves or people they know, add in the comedy and everyday situations and its the perfect recipe for a great night out!
Will this production be a one-off, or does the theatre plan for it to be the first in a series?
We hope this play proves to be an artistic and financial success and ticket sales so far are very good and much further advanced than we could have hoped for at this stage. We are already looking to develop a series of in-house plays.
You have been the theatre's artistic and educational director for several years. What does the dual role entail?
I have now been in my post for four very exciting years and I am delighted that I have the opportunity to select shows and productions to work on that I am passionate about.
I love that my role encompasses producing and directing our in-house productions, developing and increasing the artistic range of the Theatre as well as working with new younger audiences from our ever growing Gordon Craig Theatre Drama Academy for three to 18-year olds.
Stevenage is within the London-commuting belt. Does this affect your choice of repertoire for the theatre?
Yes, our standard has to be incredibly high because we are competing with the West End and other London theatres all the time. Fortunately we have an educated and loyal audience and we are competitive both in price and quality.
Which type of show is the most popular with your audiences – pantomime apart?
We programme for the theatre with a wide variety of performance styles, from week-long runs of plays, including Shakespeare, to one-night only productions, from comedians like Jimmy Carr and Freddie Starr to Gerry and the Pacemakers to Sally Morgan. Each attracts its own audience. Artistically we deliver a large range of styles to appeal to our many different audience groups.
In these recessionary times, what are your funding options – box office apart?
We rely solely on box office proceeds. The only way we can survive and prosper as a theatre is through maintaining the high quality and dramatic range of the shows we offer.