Thursday, 12 April 2012

Interview: Ivan Cutting

You can visit the Eastern Angles site here. Ivan is one of the six founders of Eastern Angles and has been with them, through thick and thin, for the past 30 years.

You can read my review of his play, Private Resistance, here or continue and read my interview with him below:

Me: Could you tell me a little about yourself?
Ivan: I currently live in Harleston, Norfolk, with my spouse and two sons.
I studied at Canterbury and Bristol, where I got a First in Drama, before I returned to Suffolk in 1981 to help found Eastern Angles, the regional touring theatre company for East Anglia. I’ve worked as an actor, musician, director and writer with the company over the past thirty years, and also the Artistic Director and Chief Executive for almost all that time. I’ve also written two pieces for Radio 4 and I occasionally tutor on the Birkbeck College course for new directors. In 2004 I was awarded an honorary Doctorate of Letters from the University of East Anglia by Suffolk College. Two years ago, I set up New Heritage Solutions along with Nick Patrick of the BBC Making History programme— to help foster new ideas that link heritage projects with new artistic endeavour.

Me: Have the past thirty years at Eastern Angles been enjoyable?
Ivan: They’ve had their ups and downs, but mostly ups.

Me: If any, what are your best memories of Eastern Angles?
Ivan: Touring in the early days and finding out the idea was a good one. Creating the early shows from nothing, seeing the success of the Christmas show take off, an early interview where you knew you had just found gold-dust, like the story that became Private Resistance or finding out about the horseman’s magic.

Me: Private Resistance has been touring since February 15th, is it going as well as you hoped?
Ivan: Yes, but so far it has played small village halls and studio theatres. It finishes up in larger halls and a 3 day residency at Parham Museum, where the real experts about the Auxiliary Units congregate, and they will be our expert audience.

Me: What made you decide not to direct Private Resistance? Was it a group decision?
Ivan: Well, I’m getting older and we have to find directors to take the company on, so, they need their opportunity. I was curious to know if it would be better if I just concentrated on the writing. And we had lots of work to do in planning the next three years, so I couldn’t afford to be locked away for a month as well as writing it. Finally, I though Naomi would bring something different to the production than I could— and she has, as you can see from the top notch performances she got out of everyone.

Me: Were there any elements of the script that you found difficult, or was the process relatively easy?
Ivan: It was bloody difficult, because;
 a) it was a time when everyone was banned from talking about stuff to each other! How can you tell a story when people are banned from “careless talk”. Plus the whole Auxiliary Unit thing was supposed to be top secret?
 b) in order for the story to have any kind of credibility then a large number of the cast had to die – otherwise it would just be romantic heroics.
c) how do you tell a story where they have to burrow underground
d) could we get away without any Germans in the show – but I didn’t want any comedy villains
e) would anyone notice that no one is smoking? I hate smoking on stage now – the actors can’t do it because they don’t, the smell of herbal cigarettes in the small spaces we play in shows up that it’s fake, and audiences don’t like it either. And if this was really 1940 they’d have been doing in continuously! But no one has mentioned it.

Me: Are you currently working on anything else?
Ivan: There’s always something to work on: a spoof of the Brontes for a Christmas show; a play about Arthur Ransome and George Orwell; and something I’m not even going to breathe a word about. But it’s best not to flag things up too much in case they never see the light of day.

The big thing I’m working on is a documentary about the Peterborough Development Corporation, probably called The Peterborough Effect, which we are doing next year, although I’m directing that not writing it. However I will working closely with the writer, Kenny Emson, and with Tina Bramhill, who is our wonderful Project Officer on the Forty Years On project and who is unearthing the wonderful stories from the people who took part. It’s fascinating story and I hope you’ll come and review it on first night.

Me: If you could go back in time to 1982, what advice would you give yourself?
Ivan: I suppose I could have said, “Don’t worry— everything will be all right and it will work.” But that would have been fatal, and then it wouldn’t have!

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