Category Archives: Interviews

Interview With

Martin Malcolm


Martin Malcolm

Martin Malcolm


Interviewed – May 2020


Hello, thank you so much for answering our questions today. Why not start by telling us a little bit about yourself?

I’ve been writing plays for around eight years, including Drifters, Tiramisu and Kingdom of the Icebear for Theatre West, NightFlyer (Tristan Bates), Warped (VAULT Festival) and The Signalman (Old Red Lion).

How did it all start?

When I was five, I was in The Enormous Turnip at school. I got a cracker of a role, the Mouse (paper ears, skipping rope tail). He comes on at the end, fixes everything and resolves the narrative.

I never got over it. I’ve been on a mission to resolve the narrative ever since.

How did you end up as a playwright?

I had a lot of false starts and did a lot of jobs I didn’t want to do. I trained as an actor, but quickly found it wasn’t for me. I worked in bars, museums, offices and painting floors in a theatre. I’ve been a press officer and a teacher and I’ve scripted educational media for broadcast. But all the time I secretly wanted to write plays.

I got back into play-writing through two comedy shows, The News Revue in London and Brighton’s Treason Show. Scripting two-minute sketches week-in-week-out tells you a lot about structure.

I gradually built up my contacts, found actors and directors I wanted to work with and moved on to the kind of stuff I write now.

Your work is hugely versatile – last year’s Warped at the 2019 VAULT Festival sizzlingly tackled toxic masculinity through modern day Kray twin wannabes, while your adaptation of Charles Dickens’ The Signalman, which would be touring right now if not for this pesky pandemic, adopts a totally different tone. What are the themes and ideas that fuel you? What’s the connective sinew in your writing?

Thank you, that’s very kind. The stories I write are always sparked by something that happened to me or to people I know well.

I don’t choose a tone or a theme, they kind-of choose themselves. My stuff is often bleak and gritty, but that’s what writing non-stop comedy for ten years does for you.

I like plays where small actions, small choices, small objects, turn out to have huge consequences. I love it when you’re watching a play and you think you know where it’s going and then CRASH! The ground falls away and you realise you’ve been standing on a precipice.

The only theme-y things I’ve noticed in my work? I often have a very quiet character on the edge of the action and I often set it in a transitional space: a road, a corridor, a gateway, a doorstep, a stairwell. I love a good doorstep!

In 2019 you also began producing, leading to the formation of your own company. What made you want to move into this role and create Critical Moment Theatre?

Critical Moment is more of a brand than a company and to be honest, it’s still forming itself right now. The team behind it are all discovering what it is, as we work on our first projects.

It’s learning-by-doing and that means you’re going to make a lot of mistakes. But it’s perfect for a writer because making it up as you go along is what we do.

I started it because I lack patience and I got tired of waiting. In theatre, both on and off the stage, if you want to see some drama, you have to make stuff happen.

What’s been the biggest learning experience in moving into the world of producing?

Always have a contingency plan. Because contingencies are always going to happen. And finding the right people to work with is the key.

The team I’m working with right now – composers, actors, poets, photographers – are absolute diamonds. It’s their glittery creativity that shines out when we get things right.

You’re a staunch advocate of no artist having to work for free. Has it ever been difficult maintaining the ethically correct stance if it meant losing opportunities?

Yes, it’s always difficult. Like the rest of us, I see call-outs every day asking actors, directors and writers to commit their time, energy and talent but with no mention of a fee.

Maybe that’s OK if it’s a short project, a one-day event or a scratch night, say. You might gain something else tangible: creative partners you can work with again or an ongoing relationship with a venue.

But one unpaid gig quickly leads to another which leads to another. If that becomes the new normal, how will you ever break free? People will come to expect it of you. And I am forever struck by the insouciance of those who constantly ask others to work for them unpaid.

With Critical Moment, we raise the money before we make the work. If we can’t raise the cash, we don’t do the project. Everybody who works with Critical Moment gets fairly paid for what they do because we all have to eat and we all need to have our work respected.

Despite the theatres being closed, you’ve still been busy with Speaking Stones, an audio trail giving a voice to statues and street art in Harringay. What was the inspiration behind the project?

Our local library was asking for artists to come and make work. And looking around the area we thought: ‘Who are all those stone people, iron animals and painted magical beasts we see every day?’ So we started to create an audio trail to find out. We’re curating a range of responses to all kinds of artwork from people who live, study or work in Harringay, or just pass through.

To begin with, we wondered how much art there really was out there. At first glance, all you see is an urban streetscape: shops, stations, take-aways, streetlights, a lot of traffic and a lot of concrete.

But once we started looking, we found artworks sneaking in all over the place. It has been a delight discovering it all and we can’t wait to share it.

Speaking Stones is supported by The Mayor of London’s Culture Seeds Fund and we’re hugely grateful to them, as well as Haringey Library Service and our other community partners, for backing us.

How have you adapted to this new existence of social distancing and staying indoors, in terms of managing Speaking Stones, and in your everyday life?

Originally, Speaking Stones was going to grow out of workshops and live events. But when Covid came, obviously that had to go on hold, though we’ll come back to those things when the virus crisis is over.

We moved our audio trail online and discovered it’s exactly the project for these times. We launch a digital map with audio clips on 30th May that you can access from your sofa as easily as you can from the street. So it’s ideal for bringing the outdoors inside for anyone who still has to shelter.

And in my everyday life? I have tidied my desk, so that’s a bonus.

What’s your top tip for other creatives struggling with quarantine life?

Do what you can and don’t fret about what you can’t do. Creativity isn’t a commodity and you can’t use it up, so if you can’t do your project right now, that is totally fine. Return to it when you can.

That’s what I’m telling myself and it keeps me going.

What’s the first thing you’re going to do once the lockdown is lifted and we’re allowed outdoors again?

I’m looking forward to getting on the 29 bus with a notebook and jotting down all the wacky stuff people say to each other. I’ve really missed that.

Speaking Stones launches on 30th May. What kind of community response are you hoping for?

We just want people to check out the digital map we’ll put up on @StonesSpeaking and have fun spotting artworks they know or artworks they don’t and hearing how other people have responded to them.

If you live in Harringay, I hope you’ll get a buzz out of seeing the art on your street put literally on the map. And hearing it too!

And if you’re looking in from somewhere else? Here’s a chance to see wild and wonderful sculptures and paintings you’d never get to see otherwise. And maybe you’ll feel like exploring your own street (virtually or actually) to see what overlooked gems might be lurking.

Are there plans to apply the project to other areas? And what else does Critical Moment Theatre have in the pipeline?

Speaking Stones is a simple and robust concept and we’re very keen to take it to another part of town, or another town altogether. We’ve been invited to try our approach in a local nature reserve and we’re really looking forward to giving that a go.

We have a new play coming up and we were in discussion with a venue about opening it there when lockdown put a stop to all that. With everything so mixed up now, it’s impossible to say what will happen to that production, but we have big hopes for it.

As well as writing and producing, you’ve facilitated the growth of a number of aspiring playwrights through teaching at university, leading workshops, and through the insights on your Twitter. What are some your favourite pieces of advice to offer out?

I’ve been lucky enough to work with a lot of new writers of all ages and the things they come up with never fail to amaze me. I love to read the stuff other writers write. It’s a continuing revelation.

My top tip? Take notes. All the time, everywhere. Human stories are streaming out around us, brimming with excitement and passion and horror and joy and hope and mystery. The more you look, the more there are.

If you do that, you’ll never have to face the terror of the blank screen or the empty page. You’ll have started writing long before you ever get to your desk. Note-taking is a painless way to let the story come and find you, rather than the other way round.

What was your favourite piece of theatre from 2019 and why?

There’s a lot to choose from! But if I had to choose just one it would be Shook by Sam Bailey. Why? Because I forgot I was sitting in a theatre watching a play and simply experienced it as if I was there with them.

Papatango’s production was due to transfer to Trafalgar Studios when lockdown struck. And if some theatre somewhere does not do something to remedy that on the other side of all this, then I feel sorry for all theatres, because they will be missing out big time.

What’s the biggest change that needs to be made in the theatre industry?

We need to say goodbye to that word ‘submit’. Actors shouldn’t ‘submit’ head-shots or self-tapes, writers shouldn’t ‘submit’ scripts and directors or anyone else in this industry should never ‘submit’ a proposal or a funding application or a CV.

Deep in that word’s DNA is the idea that creative people are supplicants and that the power to make theatre lies elsewhere, with organisations, venues, or a class of very important individuals. That’s not true and they would be lost without us.

The first step to taking charge of your career is to stop thinking like a supplicant. So send your stuff by all means, but never, ever submit it!

Thank you for taking the time to answer our questions – stay safe and keep washing your hands!

You’re welcome. Bring on the soap.

Interviewed by Ryan Mellish

Photography courtesy Martin Malcolm




Find out more about Malcolm, Speaking Stones and their supporters from the links here:
Twitter – @MartinJMalcolm  @StonesSpeaking #SpeakingStones
@LDN_Culture #CultureSeeds  @GroundworkLON



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Matthew Jameson

Deputy Director at The Space

Matthew Jameson

Matthew Jameson

Deputy Director at The Space

Interviewed – April 2020


Hi, please tell us a bit about yourself. What attracted you to the theatre, and what keeps you coming back?

It’s such a cliché, but I was a really shy kid brought out my shell by supportive teachers, drama at school and then amateur dramatic groups. I was dead set on being just a professional actor, then ended up writing short bits and bobs for drama classes. I wrote my first full length play at 19, fell into directing my own shorts, then got a job in theatre management/production, and gradually learned to balance a mixture of all four. I call myself a jack of all trades, but theatre-maker sounds more official.

Theatre has always been the most accessible storytelling medium to me. With film and video there’s so much equipment, training, pre and post production etc. needed to tell your story properly—you don’t have that with theatre, it’s a great leveller creatively. I love the immediacy and intimacy of a live audience, the adrenaline of a buzzing house and the irreplaceable nature of nightly performances. It’s sharing a moment with a room that may never be repeated or replicated. Now more than ever, it’s the communality of the theatrical experience that I miss.

You trained at the East 15 Acting School. What was special or unique about your training there? Any teachers who were particularly inspirational?

I applied for the Acting BA but was auditioned by the head of the World Performance BA and offered a place, which I jumped at. Best decision I could have made! It was a fusion course, so we had traditional western training, as well as masterclasses in International theatre styles (Beijing Opera, Balinese Temple Dance, Shadow Puppetry for example) and modules in other disciplines like Political Theatre, Script-Writing and Stand-up. Having so many different influences helped broaden my skill set and set me up as a theatre-maker. It also taught me some fun party tricks.

We made a lot of devised work and there was independent study time for our own practice. There was also a focus on the academic study of theatre, which has really helped to inform my craft and contextual skills. East 15 has a great track record for producing well-rounded, self-starting theatre-makers and companies. I think that’s where the future of the industry is. For teachers, there were many greats, but I have to give a shout out to Dr. MJ ‘Jiggs’ Coldiron, who gives constant encouragement, besides being the smartest person I’ve met. I’m happy to say that she’s still a frequent collaborator.

You founded a company called The Heretical Historians in 2014. It’s an intriguing name for a company. Please tell us how you chose the name, and how it reflects the work you’ve created for it. Who else is involved?

I wrote my first script based on a true story for Edinburgh 2014 with the Hour Lot Theatre. Dear Mister Kaiser is the true story of Captain Robert Campbell, a British P.O.W. in the First World War. He wrote a letter to Kaiser Wilhelm II asking for compassionate leave to visit his dying mother. He was granted leave on the sole condition that he promised to return after two weeks. It was such a joy to research the historical context of the show and to make all the pieces and characters fit together realistically. From that point, I knew that I wanted to tell true stories above all else. It seems redundant to try and create a new fiction when there are so many great untold stories out there.

The mission of the Heretical Historians is to tell ridiculous, untold, TRUE stories from history. This mission hasn’t changed and our style has stayed pretty similar too. Because of my devotion to Brecht, we were always going to be an Epic Theatre company. The word ‘Heretical’ came from our friend Niall, the smartest person in the room at the meeting where we got started, and it’s been a great fit. It’s a mature enough word to distinguish us from the silliness of Horrible Histories (which I love, by the way) and lets audiences know that we’re going to be challenging the expectations and conventions of history. We also like a nice bit of alliteration.

We have a pool of recurring actors, techs, designers and producers, but the core of the Historians team are co-director/company ‘do-er’ Lloyd McDonagh, and I. Lloyd and I are best mates from East 15. He joined us for our first show at Edinburgh 2015 (The Greatest Stories Never Told), and since then we’ve developed a symbiotic directing relationship. I’ll focus on text, sound and tech stuff, while Lloyd does our set, visuals and blocking. I tend to restrict myself to cameos on stage these days, but Lloyd is too great a character actor to lose, so we give him a good weighty part together with all his other roles.

What’s your process in creating work for The Heretical Historians? Do you create the script as an ensemble, or is there one person in charge of creating the script?

Before each project begins, Lloyd and I will sit down and chat about all the stories, ideas or fragments that we are considering. We’ll ask ourselves “are they relevant, is there enough material, can we do it?” When we pick one, I’ll dive into research mode for a few months and write a first draft for a reading and a workshop. By the time we’ve cast the show, I’m another few drafts in and we’ll work it in the room as an ensemble. It’s important for us to work with a team that is honest and willing to have conversations about making everything right. We do a lot of text work with the actors before we fully block a piece and we always save our bigger set pieces/sequences to be devised as an ensemble. We’re usually tinkering with the show until the run is over. We encourage ad-libbing (within reason), so we never have a show that is ‘set’—it’s always organic and changing, which helps keep it fresh and exciting.

Describe one or two productions for The Heretical Historians. Do you have any future projects in the works?

We do a lot of work with genre parody, which makes the worlds of the show immediately accessible to audiences. It gives the stories a focus, a style and a set of tropes to play with, plus it saves us having to fork out for accurate period costumes. As an example, in The Trial of Le Singe (2017), we told the true story of The Hartlepool Monkey. In the Napoleonic Wars, a shipwrecked monkey washed ashore in North-East England, was mistaken for a Frenchman, put on trial of espionage, found guilty and hung. Because of the recurring themes of nationalism, class warfare and mob justice, we set it as a ‘Young Ones’ style punk farce, which gave us license for a lot of anarchic humour and chaos. To balance out all the low humour, and to reinforce the national identity theme, the monkey (Le Singe) delivered his own defence in faux Shakespearian iambic pentameter, which naturally fell on deaf ears.

In We Own Everything (2018), we really hit our Epic Theatre stride. It was a financial thriller based on the rise of the Rothschild banking dynasty and the discrimination they faced as Jews in Regency England. It was also partly a 1920s ‘coming to America’ story with the second half channelling 80s Wall Street. We had a cast of 9, including Napoleon and a scaled down battle of Waterloo; a stock market crash; Mad King George III and the Prince Regent; pigeons ziplining over the audience; and we gave out fizz to the audience on entry. Holy sh*t we went to town on that one! It went up two weeks before The Lehman Trilogy began at The National, so our legacy was a bit swamped by the competition.

We’re currently working on the true story of history’s worst actor, Robert ‘Romeo’ Coates, and the catastrophic production of Romeo and Juliet that he put on in the West End. An aristocratic amateur, he starred as Romeo (in his 40s!), directed, produced and re-wrote the script creating a perfect disaster. But it sold out nightly and went on to tour the country. We’re giving it the Tommy Wiseau/Disaster Artist treatment. It’s an underdog story and a lot of fun. But it also says a lot about privilege and the abuse of status within the arts, as well as theatre’s capacity to unite the nation (albeit for the wrong reasons). We are due to perform it in June 2020, although that seems increasingly unlikely. Watch this space.

You’ve brought work by The Heretical Historians to The Space, in London’s Isle of Dogs. What makes The Space such a great venue for companies like yours?

The hardest thing for a new company is getting your foot in the door without having stacks of cash to spend on hiring a venue. For a venue to offer you a split on box office and help share your risk was unimaginable when we started. The fact The Space still programmes like this is testament to the work they support. We swiftly became part of the furniture at the Space with all the marketing and production support we received, as well as being welcomed into the fold by everyone. As the Historians, we loved the performance space because it has so much character. It’s such an epic, unique building, with plenty of entrances, exits and levels that we can play with, to make immersive 360° productions. It’s a world away from the black boxes that struggle to get two actors on stage at once.

The Space is the real deal in terms of having an ethos of giving, supporting and nurturing their artists and the local community. Everyone they attract has a generous, passionate and ambitious vision. I was very grateful for the support that they gave me, so I started volunteering for them. When you’ve worked at The Space once, you never really leave, you just fall into orbit.

You’re currently Deputy Director at The Space. Tell us about your role there. What did a typical working day look like before all the theatres had to shut down?

The Space is a team of three, with a huge amount of support from volunteers and interns. With such a small staff, my job has quite a broad remit and there’s a lot of different strands required to run the venue, so there’s a lot of variety! The main constant is drinking lots of coffee.

I live fairly nearby so I’m usually the first one in. I’ll start off by opening up the building, by checking emails/voicemails and sorting our social media for the day. Depending what’s happening that day, I may have to reset from the previous night’s show, set up for rehearsals/auditions or assist a get-in. There’s usually programming work or fundraising applications to crack on with, and I have meetings with all incoming companies to help with their marketing. If we’re working on an in-house production, I may have to source props/costume or make/decorate the set. If we have new volunteers or interns, I’ll show them the ropes and induct them, and if we’re quiet, I’ll try and do some DIY around the venue or do some rearranging and Marie Kondo-ing of our offices. Because I arrive early, I don’t usually work box office in the evening, but I’ll always do a shift to make sure I see each show we have at least once. I also get invited to see shows and companies at other theatres, which is a nice cap to a day at the office.

Now that we’re all working from home, describe your working day at the moment. Do you stay in regular touch with your colleagues at The Space? What’s your favourite way of doing that?

Sadly, as I’ve been furloughed, I’m doing a lot less for The Space than I’d like to. I’m still contributing artistically, sitting on committees, and helping with script reading/development, but as part of the conditions of furlough, I’m not allowed to carry out my usual day to day duties. I’ve been told to use this time for ‘personal development’, so I’m taking online courses, reading a lot, and writing passion projects out of my system. I’m trying to act as an ambassador for anyone who wants to know more about The Space and what we do. I am, of course, extremely lucky to be in this position, so I’m offering my skills as a script reader/editor and producer gratis for anyone who is looking for feedback or advice until the lockdown is lifted. Gimme a shout if you need it!

We still speak a lot as friends at The Space. We’ll have a weekly Zoom catch up and there’s been some cracking memes on the group Whatsapp. We all show up to support any digital events The Space runs as well. I’m really glad to be part of such a supportive team.

Are you working on new projects for The Space? Care to share?

Now that we have dealt with the immediate issues of closing, such as re-programming shows, contacting bookers etc. we’ve been focusing on making sure that we are still staying active and engaged throughout the lockdown. I’m really proud of the solutions we’ve found, such as taking our script development readings and community theatre group onto Zoom, for example. We’re also hosting a weekly theatre club, where we watch a streamed production then discuss it together. We are also hosting frequent playwright and director meet-ups.

Of course we’re also looking to the future. We’re excited to bring back Two Fest, our duologue festival, after a successful first year. There may also be a blockbuster Christmas production in the works that I can’t say too much about yet.

Other than theatre, what’s your favourite way to deal with boredom while staying at home? Any advice you can give the rest of us?

There’s been a LOT of comfort TV to shake off the existential dread. Wallace and Gromit; classic Simpsons; This Country; Tiger King (of course). I’m also trying to spruce up the gaff with some DIY/gardening; pick up the guitar again, and be a better father to my cats.

My top tips are:

— Try and find a way to create a routine/variety to your week, such as Tuesdays for deep cleaning; a special meal on Fridays; take Sundays off.
— If you’re at a loss for something to do, Twitter has got some amazing digital opportunities. I’d highly recommend looking into Drunk Plays and Coronavirus Theatre Club for a start.
— Have things to look forward to, such as make a list of 10 people, places or things you’re going to see when lockdown lifts. Alternatively, get drunk and order something online. It’ll take a while to arrive and give you a pleasant surprise!
— Don’t feel bad if you’re not as productive as you want to be. You haven’t been handed a holiday or a sabbatical—you’re living through Doomsday, so give yourself a break.
—There’s also no shame in only consuming during this period. There are so many great free courses, resources, apps, podcasts, programmes and theatre streams out there to learn from.
— If you really aren’t feeling good, please reach out! Friends, family, neighbours, professionals, whoever it may be. You don’t need to suffer alone. This crisis has shown just how much compassion and care we as a species have for each other.

And finally, Theatre post COVID-19. Will we go back to creating theatre the way we did before? If not, what do you think might change?

I don’t think we can go back from this, as an industry or as a society. The pandemic has highlighted how broken many of our systems and practices are. I especially fear for fringe theatre. So many venues and emerging/mid-career companies were hanging on by a thread already, and they are going to be decimated by the economic impact of the pandemic. It’s gutting. So if you are able, consider donating to your favourite local theatres, or booking for future performances or joining membership schemes. These are the easiest and most effective ways to help venues at the moment.

However, we are in for a new wave of punk across the arts. Not safety pins and mohawks, but of people creating and engaging with the arts outside traditional structures, and with raw, unfiltered voices (especially underrepresented voices!). I want to see people doing theatre in unconventional venues, with low/no budget or homemade production values; with fierce satire, and passion, passion, passion. I’m hoping that this energy could also be the creative and constructive outlet for the build-up of anger that has been stewing in many people for a while now, as well as being a catalyst for change.

Whatever happens, the desire to create and share stories is immutable. Theatre folk are incredibly resilient and they are used to tough times. They’re just going to be even tougher for a while. But we’ll find a way to carry on developing work, making magic and holding up a mirror where we need to. Theatre always finds a way.

Thank you for speaking to us and keep safe.



Interviewed by Dominica Plummer

Photography courtesy of Matthew Jameson



Find out more about Matthew, The Space and The Heretical Historians from the links here:
Instagram – @MJamesonOhYes @SpaceArtsCentre @TheHereticalHistorians
Twitter – @MJamesonOhYes @SpaceArtsCentre @HistoriansHere
Facebook – @MJamesonOhYes @TheSpace @HistoriansHere
Websites –



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