Caro Meets Theatre Interview

Simon Stephens: Reality from The Bridge

By | Published on Wednesday 3 June 2015

You’ve no doubt heard of The BRIT School and its myriad successful alumnae (the likes of Cush Jumbo, Amy Winehouse, Adele, and Jessie J) , but you may not have heard of The Bridge Company, its theatre-department off-shoot, which provides a bridge (see what they did there?) for graduates of the school to a career in theatrical performance.


Their current show ‘Reality’, which is suitable for teenage audiences, heads to London’s Ovalhouse this month. I sent some questions over to BRIT School theatre director Simon Stephens.

CM: Can you tell us something about the play? What’s it all about?
SS: The play focuses on the audition for a brand new reality television show called ‘The Hostage’, it centres on a group of young hopefuls as they go through the selection process.

CM: What themes does the show explore?
SS: The play explores how far people are willing to go to try and access success or money or fame as a way of changing their lives. We’ve all become really familiar with reality television and how it works, and perhaps quite cynical about it too. The play tries to examine peoples motives when they do know what reality television can be.

CM: Tell us about the playwright, Georgia Fitch. How did the collaboration with her come about?
SS: We came into contact with Georgia through the National Theatre’s Connections programme, Georgia was recommended to us by the producer of that project as she’d written a piece for them. It’s been a fantastic collaboration, Georgia writes brilliantly for young people and has really allowed the actor’s ideas to develop and hasn’t shied away from some of the darker ideas that have come through in the play.

CM: Who runs The Bridge Company, and what does it set out to achieve?
SS: The Bridge Company is really a training initiative run by the Theatre Department at the BRIT School. Essentially it’s run by the company members, who are all graduates of the school. Since 2011 we’ve commissioned a brand new play from a professional playwright every year. The theatre department staff will find a professional director and the playwright to work on creating the play. The company then develop their skills by working with industry professionals in creating the play and also by producing it, fund-raising, undertaking aspects of the marketing and stage management.

CM: Do the themes of this show have a special resonance for the cast of the show, do you think, given that they are setting out on a performance career?
SS: Absolutely. Because the cast have already made a commitment to developing their careers as performers through training and education and know how hard that can be, its difficult to ignore the possibility of how that can be leapfrogged by taking part in a reality competition. That’s why the play is so great, though, as it doesn’t make judgements; it really asks the audience to think about reality television and our relationship to it.

CM: As well as featuring a youthful cast, is this play suitable for younger audiences?
SS: Yes I think it’s suitable for young people aged 14 and upwards, particularly as younger people have grown up with reality television and hopefully will have some strong opinions about the questions the play is asking.

CM: What advice could you offer to young people aspiring to a career in performance?
SS: To explore as many of the ways that exist to be involved in performance as possible. There are lots of creative opportunities to be involved in performance that don’t always mean performing – writing, directing, designing. Getting involved through organisations like Ovalhouse is a great way to find out what things you might be interested in. Also try to see as much performance as you can.

CM: What happens to the show after its run at Ovalhouse? Will there be further tour dates?
SS: The run at Ovalhouse will be the climax of the production. It’s already had performances at the Brighton Fringe and also at a brand new fringe festival in Plymouth, which has been really exciting to do a small tour. But everyone is really looking forward to bringing the show to London and enjoying a longer run of the show.

We’d love to try and get the play published so other companies of young actors could also have the opportunity of performing it.

CM: What’s next for The Bridge Company?
SS: We’re just about to start meeting applicants for next year’s company and will be looking for our next playwright and director. We’ve also secured funding from the Andrew Lloyd Webber foundation to support the company for another two years so we’ll be able to carry on supporting more young people in producing brilliant theatre.

Reality is on at Ovalhouse from 9-27 Jun, book tickets for the show right about here.

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