Caro Meets Theatre Interview

Martin Derbyshire: Influence

By | Published on Friday 20 October 2023

If you didn’t know about it, let me be the first to tell you: a new theatre venue has opened in north London.

Collective Theatre is run by producing company Stockroom (formerly Out Of Joint) in partnership with Collective Acting Studio, and the inaugural production ‘Influence’, created by Stockroom, has just opened. 

‘Influence’ – a one person show – is directed by James Hillier and stars Kit Young (pictured), whose work on high profile theatre productions and screen appearances on the likes of ‘Shadow And Bone’ will make him a familiar face to many. 

To find out more about the show, and the new venue, I spoke to Stockroom Executive Producer Martin Derbyshire. 

CM: Can you start by telling us what ‘Influence’ is all about? What story does it tell?
MD: ‘Influence’ is the story of a magician who has inherited his grandfather’s magic act. This is his attempt to replicate it and a love story to magic acts in general. 

CM: What themes are explored through the play? 
MD: One of the themes is about art itself and who gets to tell which stories.

Theatre is art and doesn’t have to be documentary, but it’s important that it is always based in a truth.

The show explores themes of online personas and fake news and asks the audience to question everything they see and hear. 

CM: What was the inspiration for the play? Who created it?
MD: The idea for the show goes back a few years and was really audience focused in development.

It’s the kind of show that relies on the audience interaction and reaction, and so a lot of time has gone into making sure it’s pure entertainment for the most part.

The script was written in the Stockroom writers’ room and so many of our creatives have had a hand in shaping it into the show you can see today. 

CM: Can you tell us a bit about the director James Hillier and the star of the show Kit Young?
MD: What a wonderful team! They work so well together.

I met James properly when I went to see Dexter Flanders’ wonderful show ‘Foxes’, that James directed, in New York. We spoke about theatre and our desire to entertain audiences and I felt he was the right person for ‘Influence’.

As soon as James read the show he only ever wanted to cast Kit, luckily we managed to make that happen. 

CM: It’s the inaugural show at Collective Theatre – can you tell us a bit about the new venue and how it came to be?
MD: The theatre is a wonderful venue that is owned by Islington Council and houses a drama school. We’ve been looking at the possibility of taking on this building for a while and managed to come together in partnership with Collective Acting Studio to start this exciting new venture. 

CM: Can you tell us a bit about the history of Stockroom/Out Of Joint? What have been the highlights?
MD: Too many to list. The company has a wonderful history and I’ve been lucky enough to work with some of the best venues around the country and internationally. The real highlight is working with writers, finding the story and developing it for an audience. 

CM: What aims does Stockroom have for the future? 
MD: In the current climate the main aim has to be survival for theatres now. We’ll also be aiming to provide as many opportunities as possible.

It’s a very tough landscape out there and if we can help to launch and develop the careers of people from less privileged backgrounds then we will feel like we’ve done our job. 

CM: Can you tell us about yourself now? How did you come to be working in the arts? 
MD: I studied Film at university, but I’ve worked in theatre since I was sixteen and never stopped after I graduated.

I started by working as a lighting technician, touring as a stage manager, moved into producing. I was freelance for many years and got my first full time theatre job at Sheffield Theatres over fifteen years ago. 

CM: What aims or ambitions do you have for yourself in the future?
MD: My ambition is to help more writers get opportunities to get their work on stage. This is an industry where how good your writing is often comes low down on the reasons people get their work produced and I’d like to do my part to remedy this. 

CM: What’s coming up next for you after this? 
MD: We’re developing a show with Cardboard Citizens and one with Octagon Theatre in Bolton, and we’ll be advancing those over the next few months and hoping to get them programmed.

We’ll be programming shows for the next year and working on fundraising. It’s been a fun and tiring experience getting the theatre open and now we all need to work as hard as we can to make sure we thrive. 

‘Influence’ is on at Collective Theatre until 2 Dec. See the venue website here for more information and to book tickets.   

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