15 January 2018

January Profile - THE THEATRE MAKER

Welcome to a new and incredibly exciting monthly profile series on The Secret Life of Maggie May!

Over the next twelve months, I will be interviewing a range of creative, enthusiastic and dedicated professionals, passionate about their respective areas of expertise and willing to share the love for their subject with you all.

I hope that these interviews will be inspiring, helpful for those wishing to pursue similar careers, and most importantly, an interesting and insightful read.

I am delighted to kick-start the series with Hattie Brown: actor, co-founder and musical director of PaddleBoat Theatre Company - plus all-round artistic genius.

T H E  T H E A T R E  M A K E R 

Hattie Brown, PaddleBoat Theatre Company

How did you initially become interested in drama and theatre?

My first memory of theatre was watching a particularly gruesome production of Macbeth aged 2. There were heads on sticks. Clearly, I was hooked from then on. I also used to get cast in all my siblings' plays in the lounge, so was required to be 'in role' from a very young age.

How did you go about pursuing your interest in drama? What did you study at school and university?

I joined Shropshire Youth Theatre when I was 12. It's a fantastic youth company, which is led by a student committee (a little bit like a university society). We performed some great stuff - from Shakespeare and Sheriden to Alan Bennett. From there I studied theatre at Sixth Form and was lucky enough to get into Exeter University to do Drama. Even though it's a university course, you're required to do a lot of practical work. It wasn't just reading play texts!

What sort of work do you do now? Is there a particular genre of theatre that you focus your time on?

I co-founded a family theatre company in my last year of university. It's called PaddleBoat Theatre Company, and that's what I focus most of my time on. Myself and three friends from university have been growing the company since 2014, so it's definitely our baby! We're based in Exeter and create shows and workshops for children and families across Devon and beyond. Lots of our work is primary and SEN [special educational needs] schools' based, but we have worked in libraries, theatres, village halls, and once off the back of a lorry. Every show we create is developed with the help of lots of different children - we take our ideas into schools and get the kids to contribute their own thoughts. They also provide very useful feedback on our new shows - children are very honest!

Hattie Brown, PaddleBoat Theatre Company

Are there any role models, actors or directors who you look up to in particular?

When I was growing up I was influenced a lot by the work of Theresa Heskins - she is the Artistic Director of the New Vic Theatre in Stoke-On-Trent. She adapts and directs beautiful and imaginative family theatre.

How does theatre feature in your everyday life? What does a typical day’s work look like?

Every day is different! At the moment we are in early development stage for our new show, so we've been in five different schools this week!

I've been getting up about 7.30am, having a quick cup of tea, packing a prop or costume in my rucksack, then getting the train to a primary school. At the school we'll work with a year group for an hour or two, playing drama games and teaching them performance skills. Sometimes we go in costume and give the children the chance to interact with us in role.

Once back from the school, we'll have a few hours of either rehearsal or admin. Running a theatre company requires a lot of emails and grant writing. We send off loads of grant applications each year to help fund the work we do.

Hattie Brown, PaddleBoat Theatre Company

What are the best bits about acting and making theatre for a living?

I love the fact that every show we make contains the ideas of children we have worked with. Performing that show back to a student who helped make it is really special.

And the worst bits...?

Sometimes it is hard to switch off when you co-run a business! We've had meetings that have gone on into the early hours before, and it's occasionally hard to make sure you strike the right work-life balance.

Where would you like to see yourself and your work in theatre in a few years' time?

I'd love PaddleBoat to become sustainable enough that even if one of us left, it could still run. I'd love to carry on making family theatre, and also develop my other passions - heritage and music. I'd be interested in doing outreach at museums, or teaching piano and singing. We'll see...!

Hattie Brown, PaddleBoat Theatre Company

Finally, do you have any advice for others looking to pursue an interest or a career in theatre?

Go and talk to people - generally people are really willing to help, as most can remember how scary it is starting out! Be willing to work really hard and say yes to some random stuff, as you'll never know what opportunities might present themselves in the process. |

PaddleBoat Theatre Company deliver high quality productions and workshops for children and families across the South West. For upcoming shows, more information, or to order a copy of their fantastic book for children, According to Arthur, head to their website www.paddleboattheatre.co.uk, or tweet them here.


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