“We’re all right, bit tired!” so say new parents Catherine Prout and John-Robert Partridge, executive producer and artistic director of Stratford’s foremost fringe theatre company, Tread the Boards (TTB).
Obviously running a small theatre company is an exhausting business, but at a newborn into the mix and it’s doubly so.
The new baby is the adorable Alexandra, born on 11th February – just six weeks before TTB’s 2019 season commenced.
The couple tell Herald Arts that with the help of an army of friends, family and the TTB team it is full steam ahead for theatre business as usual.
“We have lots of directors coming in who we have worked with before, so they are really lightening the load so we can spend more time with Alex, which is lovely,” says Catherine.
TTB are now in their tenth year operating from the Attic Theatre at Stratford’s Cox’s Yard. How is business?
“We are supported by lovely regulars – from Stratford obviously but also people from as far as Manchester and wales,” says Catherine. “Our ticket sales have grown. It feels like people are spreading the word so our numbers are up. Things are always difficult on the financial front but again we have a lot of supporters who help us out – one lady who came in to some money and she gave us a little bit which was amazing. An anonymous donation also came through from a local person, so we don’t know who they are but we would like to say thank you!”
The running of TTB is very much a family affair – Catherine’s mum and dad run the box office, and John’s mum washes the costumes. Surely it won’t be long before little Alexandra makes her debut?!
Catherine laughs: “Alexandra is a very popular lady – she has a fuller diary than me – people are lining up to see her. There’s a suggestion that we should do The Winter’s Tale again because it’s got a baby in it!”
How has the programme been put together this year?
“It’s the things we enjoy doing and that we hope people will enjoy seeing. So we have Treasure Island for the family in summer; and of course panto. For Halloween we’ve got something a bit different – The Haunting – less gore and more Woman in Black-type psychological horror,” says Catherine.
“Great Expectations is a big one for John because that’s a play he’s wanted to do for a long time. It would be good to see how many people we can squeeze the cast down to.”
The season kicks off with King Lear, with Philip Leach in the title role.
“He is amazing,” says John, who is directing. “The production really looks at family relationships. A family member has dementia and it’s been telling to see the parallels in the play.
“Rehearsals for Much Ado About Nothing are also going well. Often the play is set in the war but ours is ‘preppy’, and is set at a picnic – think Bake Off meets Made in Chelsea.”
You are in the shadow of the RSC – how do your productions of Shakespeare compare?
“There’s no bells and whistles with ours it’s more about the story and the relationships. There’s no huge set and concepts – we are in a very small theatre with the audience very close. The RSC is very epic but here you can see the whites of the actors’ eyes and you are almost immersed in the action.”
What are you waiting for? Go get immersed at TTB this year!
Tread the Boards 2019 season
King Lear 28th March to 21st April
Much Ado About Nothing 4th to 28th April
Up n Under by John Godber 3rd to 12th May
The Wind in the Willows 27th May to 2nd June
Pygmalion 13th to 30th June
Charley’s Aunt by Brandon Thomas 11th to 28th July
Treasure Island 8th August to 2nd September
Great Expectations 11th to 29th September
The Haunting by Charles Dickens 10th October to 3rd November
Someone Who’ll Watch Over Me by Frank McGuinness 8th to 17th November
Twelfth Night 21st November to 1st December
Jack and the Beanstalk 12th December to 5th January
For more information and to book online visit www.treadtheboardstheatre.co.uk