Jo directing the Oxford Playhouse 16|22 Company in The Odyssey (2015)

Jo directing the Oxford Playhouse 16|22 Company in The Odyssey (2015)

Last year Jo Noble directed Oxford Playhouse’s 17|25 Young Company in Jane Eyre, which “got really good reviews”, she recalls. “It was a complicated text in many ways,” I’m told. “Often in quite dense novels, an awful lot of interest is in the minutiae of the writing, the descriptions and so forth, which of course can get lost in a physical production. So we did our best to try and retain all that but in a quite upbeat way – which I think the audience enjoyed.”

The year before Jane Eyre she directed the same company for Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead (the show she was promoting last time I interviewed her), and in 2018 she leads them again in On the March. What is it about working with young actors that makes her keep doing it? “I love it,” she answers. “I love the fact that they think they’re learning from me, but I often think I learn as much from them.” A fair few of the young actors she works with are university students, she states, repeatedly required to analyse texts and characters in a certain way. She asks them to be more playful, stripping away what she calls “the sophistication of studenthood”, to get right into the characters. “What that does is really release them,” she explains, “and that’s when the exciting things come out.” She tells me there are times when she has an idea for how she wants a scene to play out, and her young actors’ input and playfulness creates something more rousing, individual and original than she’d initially envisioned. The process is two-way, she says – she receives from them and they from her. “It’s an organic process. It’s a bit like a lab where you hope you’ve got all the things right, then you light the Bunsen burner and you’re off, and hope it doesn’t explode (too much).”

On the March | Oxford Town Hall | 20-21 March

On the March | Oxford Town Hall | 20-21 March

This year’s 17|25 Young Company offering is performed in the same month as International Women’s Day (8 March), and marks 100 years since some women were given the vote. Written by Clare Bayley, On the March will take place in Oxford Town Hall, where in 1913 suffragist Millicent Fawcett gave a speech championing women’s rights following a suffrage march from Banbury to Oxford. Thus, Noble says, the play inhabits “a hallowed space”. 1913 is the year the promenade piece first settles in, before catapulting forward to the early 1970s which saw ample protest movements. The third section of On the March is set in the present day, focusing on the environment of Westminster. The final stages of the show take us back to 1918 – the year some women got the vote. “It’s a journey through time,” says the director, “and a journey demonstrating how women have fought for their rights.”

She is assisted by award-winning musical director Matt Winkworth (“very good at working with young people”) and movement director Emma Webb (“really brilliant at responding to my bonkers brief”). They make a good team, she reckons, “and we challenge each other. We don’t ever want to repeat anything; we want to do something different, new, and quite dangerous.”

With women’s rights still such a hot topic of conversation, I ask her how the world of theatre is faring in terms of gender equality. “We assume the industry we work in is an enlightened one,” she starts, before saying that the number of female playwrights who get their work put on is “hugely disproportionate” to the number of males that do. “It’s not because the women aren’t producing the work,” she resumes. “They just for some reason don’t get chosen.” It’s being addressed, she says, albeit very slowly. Plus all-women productions staged by prominent female directors have to her mind “caused a bit of a stir”. However, she claims, it’s “far too little and far too late. As an industry we are only beginning to wake up to the inequalities that exist and have done for generations.”

On the March plays at Oxford Town Hall 20-21 March

oxfordplayhouse.com

Comments are closed.

Lord Etherton as Chair of independent review into impact of Armed Forces ‘gay ban’

Today [22 June], the Government announced that The Rt Hon The Lord Etherton QC will chair an LGBT Veterans Independent […]

The UK Prison System on Stage

Cell Outs is a dark comedy written and performed by two ex-prison officers. It follows the true experiences of two […]

FORMS OF INTIMACY: A CELEBRATION OF PRIDE

Forms of Intimacy: A Celebration of Pride explores the concept of intimacy through the works of LGBTQIA+ photographers and artists […]

Queer Spaces

A Queer independent bookshop in Glasgow; an ice cream parlour in Cuba, where strawberry is the Queerest choice; a cathedral […]

LGBTQ Comedian of The Year Awards

Comedy Bloomers LGBTQ+ Comedian of the year is set for The Clapham Grand on June the 14th 2022. Fresh comedy […]

GREENE KING WINS PRESTIGIOUS AWARD AT RAINBOW HONOURS

Leading pub company and brewer Greene King’s LGBTQ+ employee led inclusion group, The Village Greene has been awarded the coveted […]

WorkPride 2022

With an increasing number of companies wanting to ensure LGBTQ+ inclusion at work, myGwork’s upcoming WorkPride 2022 is well-timed to […]

Pride in Education

5th Pride in Education conference set to combat prejudice and champion LGBTIQA+ inclusion. The international Pride in Education conference is […]

Protect LGBTQ+ Rights – Pride Month

June is Pride Month in the UK. This will be celebrated in a number of ways moving forwards into summer. […]

Lottie London Is Launching Its Official Proud to Be Collection

Lottie London is fuelled by passion and artistry of its fans. Founded on the key pillars of creativity, diversity and […]