New beginnings – and a move from East to West

I am thrilled to have been invited to become the new Chief Executive and Artistic Director of Unity Theatre.  For those of you who know me you’ll understand when I talk about this being a dream opportunity for me.  Independent theatre, supporting new/ home grown talent and venues rooted in a strong sense of community have always been key passions of mine – and they sit right at the heart of the Unity’s DNA.

You can read press coverage of the story in the Liverpool Echo, the stage and Broadway World. There is also an interview with me on public reviews here.

The Unity (and I quote)’ promotes cutting-edge work from the national and international circuit. It supports a reservoir of talent, with a number of embryonic companies, and individual artists in the early stages of development.  The original Unity was formed by directors Gerry Dawson and Edgar Criddle as the Merseyside Left Theatre in the 1930s. Becoming Merseyside Unity Theatre in 1944, the company has always been radical and experimentalist, staging classics alongside contemporary radical theatre’.

During #lovetheatre day I got into a debate about ‘improper theatre’ – it’s a curious phrase (coined by @danielbye, prompted by @nickihobday), – and perhaps an unnecessary one – shouldn’t all good theatre be improper? But it echoes a phrase that the Unity Artistic Director Emeritus, Graeme Phillips, uses to describe the Unity ‘as the boil on the bum…fearlessly exploring the issues of the day’.

And what a city in which to be brave, demanding, spotty and improper.  In the last few years I’ve been making regular visits to Liverpool and I’ve always been struck by the way the city holds culture close to its heart – what the Mayor calls ‘the rocket fuel of regeneration’.  There is a very real sense of collaboration, pride, ambition and optimism, and I’m looking forward to being part of that, and working with the artists and audiences of that brilliant city.

I’ve had an amazing time at Eastern Angles and have learnt so much in a relatively short space of time (three and a half years to be precise).  In true Eastern Angles style we’ve crammed a lot into that time  – from the brutal poetry of Joel Horwood’s I heart Peterborough, to the joyful Palm Wine and Stout, from the moving Long Life and Great Good Fortune of John Clare to the epic Dark Earth.  We’ve even staged the end of the world (Ragnarok) and a verbatim musical about town planning …featuring the Clangers (Parkway Dreams).  I shall be very sad to leave but I leave with a lot of fond memories.  I owe the company a lot – thank you!

Looking forward – it will be my privilege  to build on the legacy of Graeme Phillips’ 34 year tenure at the Unity, and to work with the whole Unity team to ensure the theatre continues not just to thrive, but to punch way above its weight in the city, regionally, nationally and beyond.

It’s difficult to express in words how excited I am! The new journey begins in February.

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