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It’s a hat trick for the National Theatre…

Last night saw a group of over 100 Creative Access interns and alumni make their way to the Lyttleton Lounge at the fabulous National Theatre on the South Bank to get an insight into the world of theatre from some of the industry’s leading luminaries. The theme for the evening was career progression and transferable skills.

The chair of the panel was the brilliant San Malhi, former Creative Access intern and now PA to the Executive Director at the National Theatre. She introduced the first speaker, Artistic Director, Rufus Norris of the National Theatre who spoke about leaving school and doing a variety of jobs including painting and decorating and busking; saying “everything you do can help you later in life in ways you least expect”. He also emphasised the importance of one’s peer group, saying, “It might seem an irrelevant point but it’s not – the people that are around you now will be useful to you in ways that you can’t imagine.”

Speaking about his current role at the National Theatre, he said: “I am ultimately the person who goes to prison if we go bankrupt. Art & philosophy are my primary responsibilities here.”

I feel optimistic about the theatre industry & I don’t think there’s any threat to its survival – BUT we do depend entirely on the people we work with and we need you.”

Next up was freelance producer Erica Campayne, who outlined what her role involves saying: “My job as a Producer is to collaborate with artists & to realise their ideas. I never really knew my job existed until a few years ago.”

Talking of her early career, she said: “I learnt my craft at LIFT which is in an incredibly ambitious organisation with great values.” Speaking of the importance of mentors, she said:

“I got some great advice from my mentor that I needed to change my job title to progress.”

This led to Erica moving from being a Participation Producer to becoming Senior Producer at LIFT.

After taking some time out for maternity leave she made the decision to come back to the industry in a freelance capacity. She has approached this role as if it were a business, focusing on her values and building her networks. She said that as a freelancer she can bring more of herself to her roles and allows herself to hone in on her own interests, including ensuring greater access to the theatre for BAME candidates and for those with disabilities.

Our final panellist was Indhu Rubasingham, Artistic Director at the Tricycle Theatre. Speaking of coming from a Sri Lankan family and of her childhood in the mining town of Mansfield, she said: “I had a natural aptitude from science and had to convince my parents to let me do a drama degree.” But it was after a stint at the Nottingham Playhouse doing work experience at age 16, where she first felt the “magic” of theatre.

On her current role at the Tricycle Theatre, she said she almost didn’t apply because she didn’t see people who look like her doing that sort of job: “There are lots of things people tell you not to do, but if I’d followed the rules I wouldn’t be where I am today.”

“My job is tough, and I’ve had to learn not just to sprint, but to run a marathon. If it was easy, everyone would do it. Tenacity is more important than talent. How many times will you get up and keep going? We are very clever at limiting ourselves, but ask yourself, what boundaries are you putting on yourself?”

The panel then opened up to questions from the floor, which led to a discussion on how theatre is representing those from less traditional backgrounds. In San’s view, “the hardest part of bringing marginal voices to theatre is doing it with honesty and integrity”.

We are so very very grateful to our panel of inspirational speakers and to all at the National Theatre for their phenomenal and ongoing support and for another incredible evening.