Interview with Roxana Silbert
The Royal Shakespeare Company’s Associate Director Roxana Silbert talks about new writing.
Why does the Royal Shakespeare Company have a new writing programme?
The RSC has always had a new writing programme. It was set up to produce three strands of work: Shakespeare, studio work and new work. “New work” can mean new plays, new devised pieces, or even new musicals. By the end of 2010, we’ll have produced eight new plays, two of them Russian, so there’s an international element to our new work as well.
What is your remit as an Associate Director?
I work with the Literary Department in commissioning plays, developing plays for production, directing plays and running seasons of new work. This year I’ll be looking after the new work in Newcastle. We’ve also got a residency at Hampstead Theatre with two new plays and a whole series of events exploring new talent. I’m hoping that you can go in there at any time of the day or night and something extraordinary will be happening.
What do you look for in a new play?
Firstly, because of our commitment to ensemble, we’re very keen for writers to have a very direct experience of the ensemble of actors that they are writing for. There’s also simply the notion that you can write for a large number of actors on a large stage which encourages ambitious work in scale, content and form. We’re also looking for writing that understands the nature of the Courtyard Theatre’s space – that relationship between characters and the audience is very particular, so understanding how to write for that stage creates a certain type of play.
Can you tell us about David Greig’s new work for the RSC, Dunsinane?
David is probably currently Scotland’s leading playwright, but this is the first time that he has written a period play. It’s an extraordinary play, set in the eleventh century, inspired by Macbeth, very historically accurate, but emotionally inspired by the current situation in Afghanistan. He uses the past to tackle problems of contemporary international politics in a way that isn’t literal or small-minded, but philosophical. There’s also really passionate love story between Lady Macbeth and Siward, who led the army that put Malcolm in power. I rather like it because it’s a middle-age love story involving people who should know better! You don’t see very much middle-aged passion on stage, and I really love that element of it.
David is at top of his game and to have new work of this scale is incredibly exciting. It’s great that we’re able to work with all the talent and skill in the RSC as well. To be able to bring all that to the public is amazing – particularly in the context of new work which often has to manage on a very small scale.