Get to meet our second Guest Artistic Director Tom Ratcliffe, and find out more about his experiences of taking the artistic reins with his curated season, A Queer Interrogation.
Tom has been active in the theatre industry as a playwright, actor and director for several years, and has a wealth of experience in creating and producing theatre productions.
As our AD, Tom brings expertise and perspective to the table, curating a diverse range of programming that celebrates queer culture and explores the experiences of the LGBTQI+ community.
I have always had the question 'do I want to be artistic director of a building' rattling around my little brain as I’ve pottered along making theatre so far in my career. So, when the chance to gain some experience and a better understanding as to what this might be like presented itself, it’s safe to say I jumped at the opportunity.
As an artist it is very easy to become all-consumed with your own work, and the best thing about curating a season is that it becomes all about other artists' work and other artists' opportunities. This is something I certainly have had experience with at Wildcard and that’s one of my favourite things about my role there. I have absolutely loved reading everyone’s work and piecing together how I can provide as many opportunities as possible within a 4 week period.
Reading so much brilliant work by creatives trying to make something happen is an absolutely privilege and it’s been really exciting piecing that together as a whole with audiences in mind. I’m so excited to see everyone’s work and how audiences respond!
I think time and what parts of the process I proportioned my time too was the hardest part. Instinctually I believed the most time consuming part of the process would be reading all of the submissions, which certainly did take time, but what I did not account for was the actual time it takes to on-board shows and build the season.
I feel like this is something that I should have had a greater oversight on, having worked as a producer and knowing all of the jigsaw pieces required to confirm a slot, but it certainly wasn’t something I gave enough weight to when initially entering the process and that’s something I would definitely change next time I approach something like this.
I wanted to curate a season of bold, exciting and vibrant queer led stories across the month. We have such an exciting array of voices within the season and therefore I think there is a huge variety of queer led shows for audiences to choose from and therefore, hopefully, a wide variety of audiences attracted to the work, which is something that really excites me.
As I briefly touched upon above, I wanted to create as many opportunities for artists as possible. There was something Sofi [Senior Producer at KHT] said, when talking about what the King's Head represents, that really stuck with me, and that is that the King's Head historically has represented a first step into the industry for so many - and we can even see this image in the King's Head Theatre Branding. It got me thinking about the different types of slots and opportunities I could create within a four week period and how these can be fundamentally important to the journey of a piece of work and to the artist creating it.
This is why you can see I have programmed rehearsed readings through Platform Festival, 1-week runs such as That’s Ace, multiple night slots and also a longer 3-week run for Breeding. These are the types of steps that I know I have taken when I’ve developed my work so far.
Being a playwright, I’m always going to be slightly biassed on this one, but celebrating and platforming new writing is fundamentally essential to theatre because our world is ever evolving and our stories need to keep up with and speak to that.
Secondly, we are at a time where our industry is recovering from a huge economic crisis after the pandemic, and we are seeing a lot of theatre’s reverting to what they see as less risky and more marketable revivals of classics. This is of course happening with the intention to revive our industry, and as much as that pains me as an artist, if this is the thing that does help then I can understand. Therefore, with less platforms available for new stories and creativity, I think it is more important than ever to champion new stories and to develop writers right now. All classics were a new story at some point in their lives.
I think this is the same advice I would give to artists full stop, which is - don’t wait for other people to make your career happen for you. I don’t think I would have got the opportunity to be Guest AD at the King's Head if it wasn’t for my Co Executive Director role at Wildcard. Wildcard is a company 11 of my peers and I co-founded when we left drama school and everything the company has achieved is something we hustled and learnt from.
Every theatre/company starts from an idea. Why can’t that idea be yours?
That’s Ace! I saw this beautiful coming-of-age story about asexuality at VAULT and I knew I had to programme it immediately. Jonny Brace has written an incredibly accessible and relatable for audience members with a really lovely performance from Tiffany Marina Pearmund. I came away from the show having been moved and learnt something. Which is one of the big joys theatre has to offer.
Asides from this and my role at Wildcard, I’m currently working with Harlow Playhouse and HighTide on a new play, which will have an extract read as part of HighTide Rising on the 20 May!