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Lucy Bailey & Anda Winters On... The Print Room

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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.
Lucy Bailey: Ha ha. She's never said that before! I've known Anda for ten years and early on, I invited her to be a trustee of my company. That's when we started to know each other on two levels - friendship and work. So it was a very natural thing, very organic, when we began talking about a theatre of our own. It was Anda's initiative. It hadn't occured to me that it would be a wonderful thing until she suggested it. It was Anda who took me round in the car looking for a space.

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.
LB: It has this great atmosphere, very calm and simple. It's not an old warehouse - it dates from the 1950s. But everyone who works in the space just loves the feel of it. It has good karma.
AW: And light. The light is really magical.

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.
AW: Fabrication will not be to everyone's taste. He is very honest and I think people don't always like to see that. But there is a truth in every single thing he writes and he shows that so beautifully even in this play.

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!
AW: We were running around with a bucket!
LB: And the toilets, too. Forget the art, it's how many toilets we have that matters!

What makes it worth it in the end?

AW: Good white wine in the fridge! Don't put that down...
LW: Yes, do put that down. That's been the best bit. Collapsing on the floor at the end of the day with a glass of wine. There's a joy in being just us in the space, of not being chucked out at six. It sounds silly but sweet. Sometimes you have to pinch yourself to remember to be excited when you're in the midst of it all. We've been clawing our way to this point for three years. Everything is on such a tight budget and you're having to persuade people to come with you and be paid very little in the belief that it's a good thing. But it is a good thing, a wonderfully optimistic thing to be doing at this point in our lives and at this point in the country's life with these draconian cuts. I just hope people will make the trip.

Fabrication runs at the The Print Room until 4 Dec 2010. For more information and tickets see here.


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