A Light Grilling: Paul Bourne & Patrick Morris (Menagerie Theatre Company)

What inspired you to make theatre? Did you grow up in a theatrical / arty household?

PB: Not an arty household at all … had an inspiring English teacher who when it came to dramatic texts had us acting out all plays rather than reading them. Then getting into school plays, first role Rosalind (all boys school), then realizing at University that there were in fact girls …and they did theatre! ;)

PM: It was the only thing that I felt I could do well. My parents were both keen amateur dramatics enthusiasts, though my father was never allowed back on stage after coming on drunk in a performance of Arsenic and Old Lace.

Have you had an encounter with a turning point piece of work (or artist) that changed the way you saw what art could be?

PB: Spending time inside and outside Gaudi buildings over a long weekend thirty years ago and absorbing the stories they told and being inspired, confused but understanding there was no sense of ‘normal’ to categorise the work.

PM: Seeing Janet Cardiff’s and George Bures Miller’s installation at Edinburgh Fruitmarket a few years’ back.  Brilliant, playful, I could have stayed all day & danced all night.

What are your all-time top 3 favourite pieces of theatre?

PB: Simon McBurney’s production of Caucasian Chalk Circle for Complicité
My own production of The Yellow Boat in New York (sorry..)
St Petersburg Academy’s Production of The Storm by Ostrovsky (in Moscow)

PM: Theatre du Soleil performance of Aeschylus’s The Eumenides
Market Theatre of Johannesburg’s Woza Albert
Man to Man with Tilda Swinton at the Royal Court.  A long time ago….

Give us a quick overview of your career journey so far

•    A Theatre in Education Actor for Leicester County Council (when they still had TIE companies!!)  (one year)
•    Set up my own Touring Company for schools in Leicester (Three years)
•    Youth Theatre Director for The Frankfurt Playhouse Germany (one year)
•    Associate Artistic Director Frankfurt Playhouse (four years)
•    Artistic Director York Theatre Royal Youth Theatre (one Year)
•    Artistic Director Centre Stage New York (three years)
•    Menagerie…

PM: I worked in the downtown Manhattan scene in New York for several years, at the Public Theatre and with directors such as Joe Chaikin and Maria Irene Fornes, before coming to Cambridge & forming Menagerie.  I’ve performed in or directed over 10 of our productions, and now run our Young Writers’ Workshop which feeds excellent new work into the Hotbed Festival.  Outside of performing & directing, it’s what I enjoy most about Menagerie. 

What are you most looking forward to in this year’s Hotbed festival?

PB: 11 pm on Sunday night – oh and all of our main commissions being premiered of course … plus the guest show GIANT  and Steve Waters’ Calais Play.

PM: As always, audience responses to the wide array of work we’ve got on.  Obviously, anything that I’m involved with, such as the two young writers’ pieces, Flog and The Summer Before Everything.  Then we’re premiering a new, experimental piece by Steve Waters, The Calais Play – exciting because we’re using all the performers from our commissioned plays, and because it directly confronts our devastating referendum result. 

Can you describe the process of putting the festival together, including how you make your programming choices?

PB: Commission work that is by as wide a variety of playwrights as possible (diverse in age, background and career stage). Commission work that has a chance to go forward in the future for our main touring shows. The commissions are from our network, our workshop programme and open invitations. Add to this interesting guest shows and emerging local artists and we end up with a very diverse programme of brand new work at the core of which  are five or six pieces directly created by us just for the festival.

PM: Fretful.

What do you think are the most interesting trends in theatre at the moment?

PB: I’m over the ‘immersive theatre experience’ so I think going back to good ‘old fashioned’ storytelling is in fact the best new trend.

PM: Anything that brings down the boundaries which divide creative artists who otherwise might have a lot to learn from each other.

What do you think about David Hare’s recent assertion that nobody writes good plays any more?

PB: I think the idea of ‘good plays’ is highly judgmental of course (he is talking about good storytelling really) and the idea that  the perfect script turns up is rare but good storytelling is not and collaborative work, devised and  co-developed texts are powerful ways of putting stories together but I have some empathy with Hare – I hope the quality of good writing isn’t being lost and I want to trust writers to be brilliant on their own and with us … and not be scared to tell stories.

PM: That he should retire and let someone else do it then.

What makes a ‘great’ play?

PB: Does it move me – challenge me or change me in some way; simple or spectacular. Does it explore the questions I am pondering in an engaging, powerful and poetic way. Am I different or somehow - enhanced - happier, sadder or angrier when the performance is over? And how long it stays with me.

PM: That’s too hard of a question to answer in such a short time.

What do you most and least enjoy about what you do?

PB: Most – being the master of my own destiny, and working with people more talented and nicer than me! Plus the world-wide travel that I get to do delivering workshops and seeing work.
Least – I like it all really to be honest (even the filing…)

PM: Most – any time that I spend in the rehearsal room is a joy.
Least – the fine details of organizing anything.

If you weren’t’t doing this, what would have liked to do instead?

PB: Musician – it’s just a shame I am tone deaf and can’t play a single note!

PM: Be on holiday

If money were no object, what would you do (that you can’t do at the moment)?

PB: Get Es Devlin to design the set for a spectacular new EPIC play by one of our top writers …

PM: Re-join the EU.

Hotbed is The Cambridge New Writing theatre festival produced by Menagerie Theatre Company, co-produced with the Cambridge Junction and presented in association with Soho Theatre. It takes place 7 – 10 July at Cambridge Junction.