Out of Joint founder, Max Stafford-Clark discusses the state of touring theatre and how cuts in funding, safer programming and shrinking audiences have all affected his latest tour of new play Crouch, Touch, Pause, Engage.
Sonia Friedman shares her experiences of working with Stafford-Clark from her days as producer and co-founder of Out of Joint.
After 13 years running the Royal Court, Stafford-Clark was facing freelance life once again, something he has always associated with artistic exile. He had offers, not least from the RSC, but setting up his own company, as he’d done twice before, with the Traverse Workshop Company and Joint Stock, allowed him to keep hold of the reins. While thinking this through, he received a letter from a young producer, Sonia Friedman, in-house at the National Theatre and seeking a new challenge. Like him, she was convinced that British theatre needed Stafford-Clark doing his own thing. “He was – and probably still is – our greatest dramaturg-director and champion of new work,” she tells me. “He has discovered and nurtured a generation of writers who have influenced another generation of writers.”
That roster of writers speaks for itself: David Hare, Caryl Churchill, Howard Brenton, Timberlake Wertenbaker, Mark Ravenhill. He has inspired them with subjects as often as they’ve inspired him with scripts, and the Joint Stock method, which lets writers explore a subject collaboratively, before writing individually, has become a standard practice.
Modern classics such as Fanshen, Serious Money and Shopping and Fucking wouldn’t exist without him. Two that he triggered – Our Country’s Good and Light Shining in Buckinghamshire – are in Rufus Norris’s first National Theatre season. As Friedman says: “His influence is immense and his body of work astounding.”
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