Indhu Rubasingham is the new woman at the Tricycle’s helm

We talk to the soon to be artistic director of the Tricycle about appealing to new eyes and not playing it safe

Indhu Rubasingham is about to fill some very big shoes. As Nicolas Kent, long-standing director of the Tricycle steps down after 28 years next May, the 39-year-old will step up.

But first, she’s got to get on with what she’s been doing for the last 15 years – theatre directing. More specifically, the current project is directing Stones In His Pockets at the Tricycle itself.

Stones is a two-man show set in rural Ireland. The plot centres around a Hollywood film crew which comes to a village and the effect its money machine presence has on the area. “It’s both really funny and really poignant,” Rubasingham tells me after also telling me that it is not a comedy. “The reason the writer wanted a new production of it was that it was always been billed as a comedy and she wanted to get back to the meaning of the play. The reference to stones in his pockets is about suicide. I’m not saying people won’t find it funny at moments but I hope they also kind of go, ‘Oh my god’, too.”

She has her work cut out with this one – just two actors play a whole host of characters. Thinking about it conjures up images of gruelling character drills – like one of those scenes in a Robin Williams movie where he takes a different comical guise every few seconds. The imaginary scenario is not so far from reality. “They’ll go, ‘God, who am I now,’ and it’s really funny because they’ve got gestures with each character and they’ll switch to a different character but they will still be crossing their legs or something,” says Rubasingham of actors Jamie Beamish and Owen McDonnell. “It will be very confusing and very funny for a while before it gets settled. They are very good actors. They are completely up for it and that’s what it needs.”

The play will be another in Rubasingham’s long list of accomplishments, which also includes working on the Women, Power and Politics season as well as directing at Hampstead Theatre and the National. Her success led her to the board of the Tricycle, before she was appointed as the new artistic director.

She has big plans for her new role. “I’m really scared but excited. I hope – and hope is a big word – I can build on what’s already been there but expand it. I want to bring different voices to the theatre – that comes in the form of different playwrights from different countries and actors and writers.”

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Inspired by the work of Dominic Cooke at the Theatre Royal and Nick Hytner at the National, she wants to open up the theatre to the community. “Both of them have opened up the remit and the artists coming in to the theatre. It goes without saying that I’m a huge admirer of what Nic has done too. It’s really interesting because it is a time for me to look around and kind of go, ‘OK, what do I like, who do I want to be like, what tips do I want to take?’ because it is a new job for me. But you know, ultimately, what I’ve got to remember is that I bring a particular voice and a particular position. I’ve got to remain true to that voice.”

And what a voice that is.Born in Nottingham, Rubasingham has worked her way up after getting a taste for theatre after a chance work placement and a later drama degree and Arts Council bursary. She’s excited by the prospect of bringing new writers, actors and stories to what she calls a “really loyal audience who are really up for being challenged.” Her other charge is to appeal to new eyes, who perhaps feel the theatre is not for them. “For some communities, theatres are very alien and I want those people who feel that the theatre is not for them, to feel that it really is for them.”

Although, the financial constraints that have played a part in Kent’s departure mean that Rubasingham can’t tell us any exact plans at this point. But she can promise new writing and a demanding and challenging programme in the summer when she takes up the post. “One of my fears is getting scared and because of that playing it safe. That’s one thing that Nic hasn’t done and I hope I won’t be playing it safe either.”

S Stones In His Pockets is at the Tricycle Theatre in Kilburn from December 15 until February 4.