The Evening Standard interviews Festival Producer

Posted on 10 March 2016. By: Nick Curtis

Posted in: Interviews with cast and creatives

The Evening Standard interviews Festival Producer

'I don't know the London literati. I just have ideas' Nick Curtis, from The Evening Standard, interviews Hampstead's Festival Producer, Issy van Randwyck, 10 March 2016

Five years ago, actress and singer Issy van Randwyck was pregnant with her second daughter and she and her husband Edward Hall, artistic director of Hampstead Theatre, “went to a literary festival, to support our friend Polly Samson [wife of Pink Floyd’s David Gilmour]. We thought: ‘This is a wonderful thing but there is nothing like this that straddles all the arts, that discusses process, writing, the page to stage element’. We thought: ‘Well, we are interested in that, maybe other people will be.’”

The result, four years on, was the first ever festival at Hampstead Theatre, which grew from a planned nine events to more than 30 that filled every nook and cranny of the Swiss Cottage venue one March weekend last year, and drew in 2,500 punters. 

This year, the festival is back with the Evening Standard as a partner and an even more impressive range of participants including playwright David Hare, choreographer Matthew Bourne, ballerina and Strictly star Darcey Bussell, authors Deborah Moggach and Kate Mosse and polymath Meera Syal. Not to mention Paul O’Grady and local resident (and Hampstead Theatre supporter) Gary Kemp. 

There are Lego and Mac make-up workshops for the young and not so young, master classes in how to write a novel, a screenplay or a newspaper column, but also a discussion of censorship in the arts that touches on Hall’s current production of actor Phil Davis’s play Firebird at Trafalgar Studios, which deals with the sexual grooming of children. “We are moving into edgy areas,” says van Randwyck, 52, “but these are things I think we should talk about.” 

As a new-writing venue, Hampstead has put on contentious plays such as Howard Brenton’s Drawing the Line, about the partition of India, and The Arrest of Ai Weiwei, about the celebrated and persecuted Chinese artist, both of which were live-streamed to huge audiences internationally (Ai Weiwei himself even managed to break through China’s internet firewall to watch the latter). 

Although the festival is separately funded, its job is to illuminate, celebrate and expand upon the work the theatre has done in the six years since Hall took over and restored its cutting-edge reputation, eradicating a crippling deficit and staging such hits as Nina Raine’s Tiger Country, David Lindsay-Abaire’s Good People and Mike Bartlett’s adaptation of Chariots of Fire.

Recently, van Randwyck points out, Hare’s The Moderate Soprano and a revival of Tom Stoppard’s Hapgood were box-office hits.

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