“I enjoy a theatre which reflects who we are. It’s not rocket science and it’s not meeting quotas, just across the season try and make sure that the stage looks like the town.
I am at the Watford Palace talking to Brigid Larmour, who celebrated 10 years with the theatre in 2016.
Prior to this she trained at the Royal Shakespeare Company and went on to work across the UK and America in regional theatre and London’s West End, as well as training as a studio director for TV.
Bringing diversity on stage through ethnicity and gender is of huge importance to Brigid and her team. As well as their own productions, such as I Capture the Castle which premieres at the end of this month, the Watford Palace Theatre works with tiata fahodzi, a theatre company who seek to illuminate the experience of the African diaspora in Britain today, and Rifco, who aim to reflect and celebrates contemporary British Asian experience and culture.
She explains: ““I want our stage to look like Watford. You need everybody to feel that they’re welcome and there’s something they can relate to.”
When I asked, however, whether she has seen theatre and the arts world becoming more representational throughout her career she says it is “not enough”.
“I did a production of a play by a writer called Mustapha Matura 1986 or ’87 which was the first all-black production outside of London. It’s really shocking how little progress has been made, how slow some people have been to open the doors to the whole community of artists.
“The idea that 20 years after that production, 20 years after I was doing non-gendered casting in Shakespeare, we’re still having this conversation – it’s disgraceful. Everybody’s taxes contribute to state funding for the arts.”
(Photo by Max Lacome)
Brigid is not from Watford, that is not what has kept her so dedicated to the theatre, but when I ask where she is from she is unable to give ma a definitive answer due to moving around so much as a child due to her father’s work.
“I grew up in Australia, Nigeria, Belfast, Jamacia - to name a few - I was always an outsider, I saw different ways of being.”
I wondered, then, after moving around so much as a child and during her early career, why she has stayed in Watford for the last 10 years.
“Immediately before I came to Watford I had spent 10 years in the West End in various productions, which was fantastic and different training but what I found frustrating about that was you couldn’t get the production of until you had the ‘star’ and it didn’t have any relationship with the community or the audience.
“I missed that sense you have in a regional theatre that there’s a purpose to what you do and a connection with the community. We do workshops and activities as well as Imagine Watford festival in the streets in the summer. This is your home. Everybody is welcome here.”
If you are yet to visit the Watford Palace, or have not visited this year, there is an abundance of variation with film, theatre, music, dance, opera and more.
Later this month is the second of four world premier’s to come it their stage this year, I Capture the Castle.
It follows the diary of Cassandra, who lives in a derelict castle with her eccentric family and how things change when two American brother come to live nearby. Brigid explains: “It’s what they call a coming of age story. It’s a story about growing up but also a romantic comedy and it’s something that when people read the book it really stays with them.
“JK Rowling called Cassandra the most charismatic character she’d ever met. In the story she’s trying to write so she writes a diary to capture the castle she lives in with her eccentric family.”
“If you love La La Land you’ll love this. That feels really quirky and true to its world whereas I Capture the Castle is really British, it’s all about the rain and a certain kind of eccentric British character and a certain kind of delight in the encounter between an American family and an English family.
“It’s something for us. Very often we see these American musicals that come and they’re wonderful, but it’s really nice to have things that are out of our own tradition.”
I Capture the Castle premiers at Watford Palace, 20 Clarendon Road, WD17 1JZ, on March 31 and runs until April 22. Details: 01923 225671