20 Questions… Andrew Loretto

Continuing my series…. Twenty questions asked to creatives: actors, poets, screenwriters, directors, sculptors, live art exponents, burlesque performers, novelists, dramatists, and anyone else who seems interesting in between… My next interviewee is director Andrew Loretto, who I collaborated with recently on 20 Tiny Plays About Sheffield, which opens next week – and is already sold out….

20 Questions… Andrew Loretto.

Andrew Loretto  For the Crucible Theatre Andrew has directed premieres of Lives in Art by Richard Hurford and LeanerFasterStronger by Kaite O’Reilly –

Andrew Loretto outside the Sheffield Crucible Theatre

Andrew Loretto outside the Sheffield Crucible Theatre

part of the 2012 Cultural Olympiad. As Creative Producer for Sheffield Theatres, Andrew curated a range of projects with local artists including the Crucible 40th Birthday fortnight, Crucible Writers’ Nights nd Sheffield Sizzlers.

Previous credits include: Dramaturg for Company Chameleon’s Gameshow; Artistic Director, Chol Theatre (2006-2010) – Beast Market (shortlisted for Huddersfield Examiner/Arts Council England Arts Award 2008), Space Circus (shortlisted for Brian Way Award 2009), Not For All the Tea in China (BBC2 Glastonbury highlights); International Young Makers Exchange; Sherman Theatre; Pilot Theatre; National Theatre Studio; Plymouth Theatre Royal; West Lothian Youth Theatre; Ulster Association of Youth Drama; Artistic Director, Theatre in the Mill, Bradford (1999-2003) and National Student Drama Festival (2003-2006).

What first drew you to writing/directing/acting?

Getting involved with extra-curricular music activities at school in Holywood, N.Ireland. Music fired up a passion for performing and making art; getting involved with school plays led on from that. To this day live music plays a big part in my theatre work where possible. Arts provision in schools is SO vital.

What was your big breakthrough?

To be honest, I don’t actually feel the breakthrough has happened yet! My career has been a slowly evolving one – but always with a focus on new work, multi-artform and creating opportunities for both experienced theatre artists and first-timers alike – of all ages.

What is the most challenging aspect of your work/process?

I guess I’m always asking organisations and individuals to take a risk on realising big ideas that can challenge the notions of what theatre is and what it can do. So in many ways that’s one of the biggest challenges – overcoming fear and/or set ways of thinking and being brave enough to forge on despite any reservations that might exist! The key is to bring on board like-minded collaborators, so that you’re not on your own.

Is there a piece of art, or a book, or a play, which changed you?

No – but I am influenced in infinitesimal ways by art in all its forms and by real life.

What’s more important: form or content?

I’ll give the politician’s answer: this really depends on the project – some pieces are led by form, whereas for others the content defines the form, and some projects have a mixture of both as prime motivator. They exist simultaneously as one in my head. It’s like asking what’s more important to make up a human being: a body or a soul?

How do you know when a project is finished?

A project never finishes. But alas we have defined production and performance dates and the money only pays for so much!

Do you read your reviews?

Yes. I don’t believe people who say they don’t. However I do absolutely understand and respect that some actors don’t like to read reviews whilst they’re still in a show.

What advice would you give a young writer/practitioner?

Get together with like-minded collaborators as much as you can and make your own work. Go and see as much as possible – there are lots of ways (especially for young people) that you can get cheap tickets for theatre. Do your research. Don’t leave it until your final year at university/college. Be polite to everyone – colleagues on your course will be future artistic directors/literary managers.

What work of art would you most like to own?

I fancy Tate Modern. All of it. I’d convert the top floor into a bijou city-living residence, the oil tanks could be dedicated rehearsal and performance spaces to make new work with lots of people. We’d have lots of people’s parties in the Turbine Hall. Can I apply for Grants for the Arts funding for this?

What’s the biggest myth about writing/the creative process?

That a writer sits in her/his own room as a tragic, isolated tortured soul. Rubbish: the writer is part of a collaborative process – if you don’t want to be part of a team, realising a live performance together, then theatre isn’t for you. That’s not to say that there isn’t an element of tortured isolation PRIOR to rehearsals though…

What are you working on now?

Andrew in rehearsals for 20 Tiny Plays About Sheffield, 2013.

Andrew in rehearsals for 20 Tiny Plays About Sheffield, 2013.

I’m about to go into production week for 20 Tiny Plays about Sheffield – a massive project with a cast of 60 actors aged 12-85, performing 20 short plays – all of different genres about perceptions of Sheffield  in the 21st Century. The show runs at the Crucible Theatre, Sheffield from 8-13 April 2013 and has been fully sold-out for quite some time! We’re having to put in an extra public dress rehearsal so that people can see it. The 18 writers for the project are: Andrew McMillan, Andrew Thompson, Chris Bush, Chris Thorpe, DC Moore, Helen Eastman, Kaite O’Reily, Laurence Peacock, Louise Wallwein, Marcia Layne, Michael Stewart, Pete Goodland, Richard Hurford, Russell Hepplewhite, Sally Goldsmith, Stephanie Street, Tim Etchells, Tom Lodge.

’20 tiny Plays about Sheffield’ is the second production from Sheffield People’s Theatre – which I set up in 2011 for its first production ‘Lives in Art’ by Richard Hurford – achieving critical acclaim in the national press. I’m delighted that Sheffield People’s Theatre has since been awarded funding from Esmee Fairbairn foundation to develop its programme of work – of which ‘20 Tiny Plays’ is the first project to be supported. We’ve also got a Pearson Playwright bursary to support young Sheffield writer Chris Bush as part of the project and his year-long attachment to Sheffield Theatres. Chris’s work first came to our attention through the Crucible Writers’ Nights I’ve been curating over the past couple of years. Link to show:  http://www.sheffieldtheatres.co.uk/event/20-tiny-plays-about-sheffield-13/

What is the piece of art/novel/collection/ you wish you’d created?

I loved the recent production of ‘Constellations’ – design, writing, performances, movement and direction all knitting together seamlessly. Lucy Cullingford, the movement director on the show, is one of my regular collaborators – it was a brilliant showcase for her precise, detailed and nuanced work.

What do you wish you’d known when you were starting out?

That I am just as entitled to have my voice heard at cultural tables as the posh Oxbridge boys and girls. Being a Celt, my default position is the ‘cultural cringe’.  

What’s your greatest ambition?

I’d love to get full eyesight back in my right eye (lost as the result of a violent attack in 2006) but I don’t think technology will evolve that quickly in my lifetime.

How do you tackle lack of confidence, doubt, or insecurity?

Surround yourself with good friends and confidantes – stay in touch with people. Invest in those friendships, give more than you receive. And make sure they’re not all involved in the arts!

What is the worst thing anyone said/wrote about your work?

Oh, I have fabulously bad review about the first full-length play I wrote. The reviewer was in a foul mood on the night he came to see the show – and I think my play just made him worse. I truly treasure it – it’s one of those reviews that seemingly starts off well, then the first cut is made. The knife plunges in and there’s a final twist at the end, leaving the entrails of the play steaming on the floor. Yep, one of THOSE reviews. Classic. I bumped into the reviewer at a Christmas party – he happily told me that the play in question was his single worst theatre experience that year. I’m happy to please.

And the best thing?

Oh it’s the personal testimonies from people who have been touched by seeing a show or by taking part as a participant and seeing how involvement with theatre projects can – literally – transform people’s lives.

If you were to create a conceit or metaphor about the creative process, what would it be?

I guess this is a cliché, but being a director is being like a mother: you conceive the baby, give birth to it, nourish, cherish and want the best for the baby as it grows into a young person, then a rebellious teenager. Then finally you have to let your baby go out into the world on its own as an adult – very often with little thanks for all the work you did other than the occasional card or phone call. That’s what directing new work can feel like!

What is your philosophy or life motto?

How do you want to live your life? (actually I stole that from my good friend Carri Munn, but it has stuck with me.)

What is the single most important thing you’ve learned about the creative life?

That the majority of people in the arts are generous and kind. A minority are not so – and that’s often down to insecurities and fears. Focus on the majority.

What is the answer to the question I should have – but didn’t – ask?

Age 17. Edinburgh.

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