East Croydon Cool talks…Theatre

East Croydon Cool talks… is a new blog series that explores topics of cultural interest via local area experts.

This month we spoke to Anna Arthur, Director of Croydonites, to learn a little more about the world of theatre.

Croydonites is a festival of new theatre and performance for Croydon. Its mission is to showcase local theatre makers, and bring some of the best contemporary performance work from around the UK to our neighbourhood. The inaugural event took place in November 2015 when four companies presented work at two venues. The second edition took place in March/April 2017 with eight companies presenting work in six venues.

In 2018, the festival will take place from 27th April to 20th May and will incorporate ten companies presenting work in seven venues. The festival is supported by both the Arts Council England (Grants for the Arts) and Croydon Council through their Cultural Partnership Fund.

In addition to running Croydonites, local resident Anna regularly travels all over London and beyond to see the work of experimental and alternative theatre makers…and so is the perfect person to offer some insight to life behind the curtains 😉

1) How did you get into the theatre world?
I always loved theatre and wanted to go to RADA and become an actress, but ended up at art college in Totnes, Devon studying experimental performance. I kind of fell into production work, then producing.

2) What’s the best performance you’ve ever seen?
Cloud Street by B Belvoir, a company from Sydney, Australia. It’s 5 hours long but the time flies by, also Andrew Schneider youarenowhere – half way through the show a curtain which you think is hiding a back wall, is dropped to reveal a mirror, only it’s not a mirror, it’s another audience who’ve been sat there the whole time. It was completely disorientating.

3) What do you think of the UK theatre scene?
It’s the best in the world – Edinburgh comes in for a lot of flak, but it’s still my favourite week of the year.

4) What do you think of the theatre scene in Croydon?
It’s developing a new found confidence. We are venue poor, but that will improve when Fairfield opens up. There’s plenty of talent here but there hasn’t been a context like Croydonites before now to showcase it. People are always looking for something a bit different and that’s what Croydonites is trying to offer, so the future is bright.

5) Who do you think can be most credited with pushing the UK theatre scene forward in recent years?
Battersea Arts Centre, Camden Peoples Theatre, The Yard in Hackney – they all nurture and develop young artists.

6) Whats the best theatre festival you’ve been to (outside of Croydonites!)
LIFT it only happens every 2 years and this is an ‘on’ year – get your tickets!

7) Which theatre companies are pushing the boundaries of theatre internationally?
Forced Entertainment do a lot of work internationally, and productions from the National Theatre and Royal Court are regularly restaged abroad. However, we really excel when it comes to dance with artists like Hofesh Shechter, Wayne McGregor and Akram Khan doing big business!

8) What is the future of theatre?
There will always be a future for good quality work but right now immersive theatre is very current. Generally I think audiences want to participate more, sometimes that means they are literally part of the action, which they can be if they come and see Land of Nod by Parabolic Theatre Company as part of the Croydonites Festival. Or in Glitch by Vinicius Salles, they can interact digitally and drive the narrative. I think we have to think more than ever about our audience, engaging them in lots of different ways. Croydonites has two projects where people can get involved, a critical writing programme mentored by Tom Black from The Croydon Citizen and a commissioned film. We are looking for actors and crew to create the film (a low-budget extract of American Assassin), it’s part of Richard DeDomenici’s Redux Project.

9) What direction is Croydonites heading?
Croydonites will always champion local artists, but I’d very much like to have an international element. Especially next year when we Brexit I plan to have some European work. I could see it becoming a month long international festival or it could morph into something more like a fringe festival (or maybe we should have both). I think it will depend in part on what local artists and audiences want – they usually vote pretty well with their feet!

10) Are you concerned about regeneration affecting the ability of artists to work in Croydon?
It’s a well known fact that artists often move into areas that could do with some improvement (because they are usually cheaper), help regenerate them by attracting businesses and developers and then get priced out. I know that the authorities in Croydon are aware of this, and are thinking about strategies to prevent it. But to be honest it happens everywhere and it’s not just artists that get priced out, it’s teachers and medical staff who you could argue play a more vital role (I wouldn’t necessary go along with that…but hey), so something fundamental has to change in our tax system in relation to land. I’m very interested in the principles of natural economics, or economics with justice, but that’s another topic.

To learn more about the Croydonites festival or book tickets see www.croydonites.com.

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