Mark Powell is the Artistic Director for Prime Theatre, makers of professional touring theatre for children and young adults aged 0-25. Based on site at Swindon’s Wyvern Theatre, Prime was previously known as Sixth Sense Youth Theatre before a recent rebrand and the launch of it’s latest play, ‘The Macbeth Curse’. We dropped in to the Prime Theatre office for a quick chat with Mark about their busiest year yet.
Hi Mark! The last few weeks have been action-packed for Prime Theatre, tell us what you’ve been up to?
2016 is a big year for us! It’s 30 years since we started making productions and almost as long since we have been working from the Wyvern. We’re very proud of our history as Sixth Sense, but wanted a new name to merge our professional and youth theatre strands which are both equally important to us. We asked staff, trustees, young members, old members, their families and the general public. Nearly 2000 people were consulted and we worked through 80 suggestions till we found what we think is a perfect fit: a simple and strong name about youth, excellence and preparation.
Our latest tour started this week and it’s our biggest yet: a brand new play specially written for us by Terry Deary of Horrible Histories and a co-production with the Bolton Octagon. The Macbeth Curse is about a group of Victorian actors struggling against a series of unlucky incidents, including the fact that their manager insists on integrating music hall song and comedy into a Shakespeare tragedy. We tour the South West for 10 weeks and the North West for 2 weeks. We’ll be at the Swindon Arts Centre on Mon 21 – Tue 22 March and you can find about more via the Swindon Theatres website: http://bit.ly/MacbethCurse
What can you tell us about the preparation/rehearsal process for Macbeth’s Curse? How did you start working with Terry Deary?
Terry has been a joy! I was trying to commission a writer that young audiences would have heard of and stared at my bookshelf for a bit before I saw his name…. I figured he’d be far too busy and famous to agree to work with us, but once I had finally tracked him down through one of his many publishers, he replied within 20 minutes and had written the first draft within a week. He’s clearly a man on a mission to educate and entertain. He said that I’d ‘rumbled’ him because few people know he started as a Theatre in Education actor and was thrilled to go back to his roots. He’s been very supportive and equally excited to get back to theatre in such a practical way. His historical knowledge has been really useful, so audiences will get an authentic mix of early cinema, magic lantern slides and illusions.
What kind of activities to you run from the Wyvern Theatre and how can people get involved in?
Our professional productions often rehearse at the Wyvern and we are very happy to open that process up to students and lovers of theatre. Children and young adults aged 5-25 years can join Prime Youth Theatre which runs in evenings and Saturday mornings. We are very pleased that there are opportunities for young people in all areas: acting, writing and technical theatre. We’re making artists and audiences of tomorrow! We have just started to plan our new production of The Odyssey, also at Swindon Arts Centre on Thu 21 – Sat 23 July. It will be our first youth theatre production written, designed and acted by the youth theatre. A great showcase of talent! If anyone wants to join in, it’s not too late at all. We have free and discounted places supported by funders such as the Wyvern Theatre Foundation.
And finally, how would you describe the mission of Prime Theatre going forward in 2016?
To provide theatre and creative opportunities for every young person in the area, no matter what their background, experience or confidence.