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Year of the Producer: Glynis Hall On … 20 Years of Stomp

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As Stomp celebrates its 20th birthday with a special performance tonight (14 November 2011) at the West End’s Ambassadors Theatre, where the dance extravaganza has been playing since 2007, commercial producer Glynis Hall, who has been working with the show’s creators since 1990 via her company Glynis Henderson Productions, explains how they turned a limited season at the Edinburgh Fringe into a worldwide phenomenon.

How did you first get involved with Stomp?
It started back in 1990. I had worked with lots of theatre companies who had an international focus - shows which didn't rely on language, and which crossed all boundaries, lots of them based on comedy and movement as a form of communications. Yes/No Productions were planning on putting Stomp into Edinburgh in 1991 and I had experience of Edinburgh. So that's really how it all started. I don't think any of us went into Edinburgh thinking that what has happened would happen. The show was very simple back then. After that, there were bookings in Italy and Australia. Slowly but surely it built up.

The thing which really changed our destiny, was after catching Stomp in Edinburgh in 1993 I think it was, Sadler's Wells said they had a three-week slot in March and asked if I’d take a week of it. I said no, I would take all three weeks. I thought that, if we were going to come to London, it really was the type of show that was going to need word of mouth. That was pretty smart, looking back. There was lots of great press after the first week and in the third week you couldn't get a ticket. The Americans came to see it, and they took it on for that part of the world. Then the whole thing just shifted up a gear. We put together a pretty much full-time touring company called "the rest of the world". It went to Paris for a year and then it came back into London and we're now in our eighth year here.

How do you work with the show’s co-creators and directors Luke Cresswell & Steve McNicholas?
What my side of the operation does is look after the business side of Stomp. We place the show throughout the world and we market it, and do all of the arrangements of getting those shows up and going. We also look after the strategic in that we make sure not to saturate markets, going back at the right time to the right places. Luke and Steve know the things that I'll be worried about and I know the things that I'll be doing that might worry them. We keep each other in check basically. Whilst they're the bosses, they're the ones who own the show, everyone works as a team and that includes the cast and the crew. We've always said that no one of us is the stars, the show is the star, and that's the way that it's always been.

How do you keep such a long-running fresh, particularly in the West End?
There are two answers to that. One of them would be core to being in the West End: we're one of the few shows here that doesn't need a language or any age limit. People from around the world and across the generations come to see the show, and we get an awful lot of repeat business. Second, because we're now known worldwide, thanks to all the touring we've been doing, visitors coming into London will trawl the listings and think, "ah Stomp, I know that."

In other territories, if one assumes that every five years, there's five years’ worth of a new audiences to tap, then we can go back to cities on that kind of frequency. If we're breaking into a new territory, for instance we went to Barcelona for three weeks, then we make sure that we get all of the national press in Spain and then come back and tour Spain nine months later. It's a question of how you get into a country: you want to get exposure and then tour it. We've been to some amazing places. In 1999 we played Beirut, Ramallah and Tel Aviv in one tour. I've just come back from Moscow and we recently did the Philippines for the first time.

What's your ambition for the future of Stomp?
I'd love it to continue running in London, and it might be nice to go back Paris and have another longer sit-down season there. And the touring will continue. I love travelling myself and I love shows that can travel anywhere in the world and bridge any language or culture barriers. I love that ability to connect with people and exchange life stories. It’s a big celebration of shared humour and shared humanity. We all have things that we love doing together, including laughing together. That's a very uniting experience in a live situation. That’s what Stomp is about. We haven't been to India. We've only toured to South Africa, there are other places in north Africa to go to. I'd love to play every country in the world. China is there, we've played it twice, but it's very tough. The world is constantly evolving. It's doors and windows really: hopefully, there will always be a welcome for us.

- Glynis Hall was speaking to Terri Paddock, managing and editorial director of Whatsonstage.com


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