INTERVIEW WITH CHLOE ELWOOD
Chloé Elwood began her career Front of House at the Bristol Old Vic in 2001, leaving in 2002 to become Assistant to the Director at Oxford Playhouse. Moving to London after two years, she worked with independent producer and general manager Mark Rubinstein on West End projects including By The Bog of Cats, Whose Life Is It Anyway?, Otherwise Engaged, Sunday In The Park With George, Bent, Glengarry Glen Ross, The Magic Flute (Impempe Yomlingo) and La Clique (later La Soirée). She left in 2010 to take over the general management of War Horse at the New London Theatre and stayed with the newly-formed National Theatre Productions to general manage One Man, Two Guvnors at the Theatre Royal Haymarket as well as the 45-week tour of the UK and Ireland. Since early 2015 she has been back at Bristol Old Vic as Executive Producer. She has two young boys and now lives in Bristol.
Chloé has been mentor to Matt Lister our current Stage One Producer Placement at Bristol Old Vic. If you’re a regional venue looking at becoming a Stage One Host for the next round of Producer Placements please email [email protected].
At the moment you are…
Very excited by the recently-confirmed West End run for our 250th anniversary production of Long Day’s Journey into Night at the Wyndhams. We are also excitedly exploring a future life for Tom Morris’s new musical The Grinning Man – another major highlight of our anniversary year in 2016. Given that my job was created in order to develop the future potential for our shows beyond our stage, I’m delighted (and also rather relieved to see this becoming a reality!).
When did you first discover your passion for theatre and what was your journey into the theatrical world?
My first theatre job was FOH at Theatre Royal Plymouth, and then after I left University I started working FOH at Bristol Old Vic. It was during those months that I saw the production (over and over again…) which really crystalised my intention to work professionally in theatre: Kneehigh’s The Red Shoes. Emma Rice’s work has continued to be a major influence on my life. I didn’t really know quite where I fit in the theatre ecology at that time (not an actor, nor a director, designer, writer…what other jobs are there??) until some friends approached me to ask if I would join their new company as producer. And that was that, really – I found my niche. I then started working at Oxford Playhouse as Assistant to the Director (Tish Francis), which I did for two years, before moving to London to work with Mark Rubinstein. After six years I moved to what became NTP at the National, and five years later I moved back home to BOV.
In your opinion, what is the biggest challenge facing regional theatre?
Well, of course it is funding, and ever-diminishing resources. Ticket prices, especially outside London, are not keeping up with union rate rises or the cost of materials, so every year it gets more expensive to make work. It’s also a challenge for regional theatres that we don’t have the financial resources to attract major stars out of London. People like Jeremy Irons want to work for places like Bristol Old Vic because they love the building, they love the people and they love the city – not necessarily because of the movie star salaries it offers. It is vitally important for the regions to see world-class work on their doorstep – whether that’s through making work with Academy-Award winners or collaborating with the brightest emerging home-grown talent.
What does Stage One mean to you?
If you want to be an actor, a director, a designer or a stage manager, there has always been a relatively straightforward path to follow to gain the skills you need. That doesn’t mean it won’t be hard, but it is at least logical. How to develop your skills as a producer has always been less clear, which means that it hasn’t always been treated like a creative discipline and – more crucially – it hasn’t been a career-path open to all. Stage One has done a brilliant job of formalising the process of training and placing producers so that they can learn from the best practitioners and also of opening out opportunity through recruitment.
How has hosting an apprentice supported your organisation?
We’re really lucky to have Matt with us – he brings a different set of experiences and enthusiasms which are incredibly valuable to BOV. He has also expanded our producing department by a third, which has enabled us to stretch ourselves across in-house productions and those transferring out to other venues without breaking.
What's the best piece of advice you've been given?
‘Meet everyone’, which came from Matt Byam Shaw. When I left Oxford I called in every tentative contact and hauled myself round every producing and theatre management office possible. My job with Mark Rubinstein came directly out of one such meeting, and in fact when I went to meet him I ran into Sonia Friedman, who I’d already met earlier that day. Realising exactly what I was doing, ie meeting everyone, she fixed me with that terrifying stare, pointed her finger at me and declared ‘You’ll make it’! I still get a flush of pride when I think of that…