Hampstead Theatre festival explores the mechanics behind performance

Hampstead Theatre. Picture: Nigel Sutton

Hampstead Theatre. Picture: Nigel Sutton - Credit: Nigel Sutton

Alex Bellotti talks to artistic director Ed Hall and novelist Kate Mosse about Hampstead Theatre’s exciting new arts festival.

Following its record-breaking haul of nominations at the Olivier Awards, Hampstead Theatre is opening up its doors for a star-studded arts, drama and literary festival.

Page to Stage runs across three days, from March 27-29, and aims to illuminate the process of taking the written word into performance.

Whether it regards plays, films, poems or ballet, the debut event will welcome famous faces such as Kate Mosse, Anthony Horowitz, David Walliams and Meera Syal to talk about their experiences within the entertainment industry.

The artistic director of Hampstead Theatre, Edward Hall, explains: “The idea is just to get people in an audience in a very intimate setting a little closer up to some of the leading artists of our day, as well as new talent coming through, and just discuss a little bit more about process.

“I think it’s the first time a big festival of this nature has been done in regards to performance art – discussing what the process of that is from designing to writing to filming to choreography, all of those different elements.”

Over 30 talks will take place across the three days, with a variety of workshops on script writing, novel writing and performing also running for both adults and children.

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For Hall, the festival is just the first of many events he hopes will further open up the theatre to the community following its £450,000 foyer refurbishment last year.

“It’s important that Hampstead Theatre becomes a community hub for all sorts of things and it’s certainly developing that way. We’re getting 116,000 people coming to the theatre each year, which is a lot of people, but there’s a lot more that can happen. This is the beginning, I hope, of a programme of developing how we use the theatre and what the theatre does.”

Amongst the artists appearing at the festival is writer Kate Mosse, who found national success in 2005 with her bestselling novel, Labyrinthe.

Since then, she has also turned her hand to plays for stage and radio and is currently writing a screenplay with her husband, so she welcomes the opportunity to discuss the delights of different mediums.

“This idea that you use different parts of your brain and skillset in different parts of your working life is so true now,” Mosse explains. “30 years ago people were much more in their own circles – if you were a theatre director, you did theatre; if you were a film actor, you did film acting. Now everybody does different things.”

The Chichester resident is scheduled to appear at a number of discussions during the event. These include talking alongside Anthony Horowitz about dealing with iconic figures in fiction; talking with Hall and Joe Penhall about the theatre’s hit musical Sunny Afternoon; talking about radio with Clive Brill, Penny Smith and Shelagh Stephenson; and directing your own written work with Nina Raine and Dame Janet Suzman.

This year is bound to be another busy one for the writer, with her next “epic” play to be announced in a couple of months time and work on her next trilogy of novels to begin soon after.

Much like the festival, it’s an ambitious programme of events, but Mosse insists it’s “much more exciting to scare yourself witless by being overambitious and maybe slightly fall short, than just to sit safely in the shallow waters where you’ve been all along”.

“I’m at that stage of life where my children are both grown up,” she adds, “so I feel like this is the moment to really go for it, which again is why this festival is so wonderful because you can be surrounded by people who have that courage – particularly actors, I think, who every night go out there and do it, and people who’ve been writing in different media.

“It’s really good to learn from your peers and not just to sit in your room on your own, which is what most of us do as writers!”

Page to Stage runs at Hampstead Theatre from March 27-29. Each event is £12; Concs/Seniors £10. Visit hampsteadtheatre.com or call 020 7722 9301 to book.