INTERVIEW WITH ROBYN BENNETT
Originally for the North of England, Robyn Bennett is a Theatre Producer with a particular interest in new writing with a social conscience. She is currently supported by Stage One, having been awarded their regional producer placement at Watford Palace Theatre which she is undertaking full-time until early 2018. As a freelance producer she has developed her craft in the Off-West End/London Fringe sector having first undertaken a residency with Theatre503 as assistant producer, then later as assistant producer to Tara Finney Productions. Robyn was a shortlisted OV12 Producer (2016) and is also Associate Producer for Small Truth Theatre. Most recently she produced an acclaimed revival of James Bridie's Dr Angelus at the Finborough Theatre, starring David Rintoul.
At the moment you are…
…Supported in my training via the Stage One Regional Producer Placement scheme, undertaking a full-time trainee producer placement at Watford Palace Theatre.
When did you first discover your passion for theatre and what was your journey into the theatrical world?
I grew up in Doncaster where Youth Theatre was a lifeline for me, giving me a creative outlet and so many fantastic experiences - the pinnacle of which was performing a one-to-one sonnet masterclass with Sir Ian McKellen. I vividly remember a youth theatre trip around 2007 to see the NT touring production of Chatroom/Citizenship at the West Yorkshire Playhouse and was blown away having never seen professional theatre like it before. I knew then that I wanted to be a part of telling these stories and for this to be my career. After studying Drama & Theatre at University I'd developed a passion for producing theatre; on graduating I had a brief stint as an agent's assistant before undertaking Theatre503's producing residency where I fell in love with new writing and haven't looked back since.
In your opinion, what is the biggest challenge facing regional theatre?
In a climate of limited funding and resources I feel the responsibility of programming at a regional theatre is as challenging as it is vital. Community is at the heart of regional theatres so it's important to strike a balance between presenting work that is 'popular' and will fill houses, and taking risks on new work and artists that represent all aspects of the local area, allowing everyone to see their stories represented on stage. Bringing new audiences to the theatre in this way can only enrich a community and encourage people to feel like their local theatre is theirs which I think is really special. Currently at Watford Palace Theatre we're producing a revival of Elton John's Glasses by David Farr, a heart-warming comedy about the people of Watford and its spirit, which will hopefully see a wave of new local faces and families entering the theatre for the first time.
What does Stage One mean to you?
To me, Stage One to me is the opportunity to pursue a career I might otherwise struggle to break into. Their support has made producing more accessible to me than ever, allowing me to study my discipline full-time. It's a central hub for a whole network of fellow producers, collaborators and friends to connect. Right now, Stage One are actively developing my knowledge and approach to commercial theatre, which will in turn allow me to be more ambitious in my work.
What's the best piece of advice you've been given?
It's really simple, but to always ask questions if you're unsure! I've been lucky enough to have some fantastic female mentors who've always been so generous with their time and support. In what can sometimes be a daunting and lonely job I think it's important to better inform our practice by sharing experiences and ideas with fellow Producers.
To find out more about Robyn you can visit her website HERE or follow her on twitter HERE.