The Crucible with Laura Barnes

The Crucible is the latest production by Swindon based theatre company Gatecrash Theatre following Jerusalem and The Passion.  Before the show arrives at the Swindon Arts Centre we sat down with Artistic Director Laura Barnes to talk about the company, why ‘The Crucible’ is relevant in 2016 and starting a career in the arts.

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Hi Laura, Thank you so much for your time. Could you tell us about Gatecrash Theatre and the great work that you do.

Swindon is buzzing with amazing youth theatres (Prime Youth Theatre, Quirky Bird, Swindon Young Actors to name but a few!) but I noticed that the workshop offer for adults in Swindon was lacking. What happens is you attend a youth theatre, reach 18-19, feel much older than the rest of the group and leave either to move out of Swindon and pursue a career or to just forget the love you have for creating work and exploring theatre through workshops. This is why I set up Gatecrash at the end of 2014….. there are too many creative people in and around Swindon who are losing their weekly ‘acting fix’ because they are too old for youth theatre. Drama School is also a hugely expensive option and I wanted to find alternatives for adults wanting to develop their theatre training but who just can’t afford those fees.

Gatecrash currently runs two weekly workshops – Ignite and Evolve. Ignite is for those who are looking for a hobby beyond work. The main aim of these workshops is to have fun through theatre, with no pressure for public performance or previous experience. Evolve is for the more experienced actor who is looking for opportunities professionally as well as looking to develop their craft in a safe and supportive environment.

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On top of this Gatecrash run three performance projects a year – Yearn and Learn in the summer which gives Gatecrash workshop members and non-members the chance to create a piece of theatre with a fully professional production team working on it; Smash And Grab in the spring which allows members of Gatecrash Evolve to produce their own piece of theatre under the mentorship of professionals i.e a company member directs, another one designs and maybe one even writes the show but the whole project is supported by professionals who work in those areas who mentor the team through it. Our newest addition to the projects is the yearly Gatecrash Tour which pays company members/actors to take a small professional show on the road to regional venues.

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Why did you choose the Crucible?

The Crucible felt hugely relevant to the UK in 2016…. it is a play about hysteria and the twists and turns within the story are all fuelled by fear. With the recent political campaigning and the unraveling of many strong leaders we have experienced for ourselves the power of such emotions. This was definitely an inspiration for selecting the play! I also didn’t want Gatecrash to become known as a company who always does a certain type of play….. The Crucible is completely different to last year’s hugely successful production of ‘Jerusalem, and different again from ‘The Passion’ our large scale community project this Easter. I like that Gatecrash in unpredicatable in its play choices! Above and beyond all this….. Arthur Miller’s ‘The Crucible’ is a classic; it’s story is human and touching and one that we can all relate too at the same time as being about magic and the fear of another world. 

For anyone unfamiliar with the play, what are the themes of the play?

Fear, hysteria, love, jealousy, power, ownership, community, control….. it is a tour de force of storytelling!

How did you get involved with theatre?

I trained at Bristol University in Drama (Theatre, Film and Television) and went on to direct for a small production company before finding myself, after a year of training at Reading University, in the world of drama teaching! I soon missed the creative freedom and the people I had known in theatre so returned to my main love through being employed as Education and Outreach Leader for Sixth Sense Theatre for Young People (now Prime Theatre). I worked in this role for 7 years, directing several youth theatre productions, leading their youth theatre workshops and managing the outreach programme. I also worked on all the professional tours that went out to schools and met and worked a lot of very interesting people. My highlight was shadowing the Artistic Director of Frantic Assembly Scott Graham as he directed our show ‘Kerching!’. I found his approach hugely inspirational and this physical approach to theatre has hugely impacted my own work. Besides this I directed for The Story Project in London, the National and Local Government Arts Officers annual conference was opened with a piece I directed and have worked with lots of arts organisations such as REACH and Revolution Performing Arts creating theatre with variety of different kinds of people before setting up Gatecrash.

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What advice would you give to people wanting to get involved with theatre?

Say yes to every opportunity that excites or challenges you. When you are working or volunteering on a project be enthusiastic and make yourself available. Working in the arts is not about who trained you and how much you spent on that training but it is about being there and working your socks off for a common goal! Once you have got a bit of experience under your belt be more selective in what you do but do it with all the enthusiasm of a small child and be reliable! Once your name is out there and people know they can trust in you and enjoy working with you they will use you again and again.  You can make that work…. a part time job for income and voluntary work in theatre to get you started. This will change but it is a marathon and not a race!

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The Crucible is at the Swindon Arts Centre from Thu 28 to Sat 30 July.

For more information and tickets please visit: http://bit.ly/TheCrucible16

Follow Gatecrash Theatre on Facebook & Twitter.

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