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From the Royal Exchange to the Barbershop – a theatre masterclass in Manchester…

Last night saw a group of CA interns, alumni, and local University students make their way to the iconic Royal Exchange Theatre in Manchester to get an insight into the world of theatre from some of the industries leading luminaries.


The panel was chaired by our wonderful former Creative Access intern and now Resident Director at the Almeida Theatre, Atri Banerjee. Prior to starting his theatre directing career, Atri interned at the National Theatre as Press Assistant. He is currently developing the Royal Exchange’s Young Company summer show.

He introduced the first speaker Zodwa Nyoni a Playwright and Poet currently under commission at Kiln Theatre and Royal Exchange.

Zodwa “hadn’t seen stories that reflected her own until a team transformed a theatre into a South African township” mesmerised by this, she’s been fascinated by the art of storytelling ever since! Zodwa recently made her first film commissioned by the National Trust telling the perilous journey of slaves and mahogany from the Caribbean to stately homes in England.

“I am just fascinated by stories and techniques of storytelling. I’m really keen on research and creating a narrative from then on.”

She spoke on the crossover between creative lines and doesn’t limit herself to one space moving from poetry to theatre and film.

Next up was Jude Christian; a Director and Theatre-Maker. Talking of her early career, she said;

“My family tried to convince me not to work in theatre but it made me more determined. I slightly lost the battle but I won the war…I just wanted to be the artful dodger; I’d been reading plays and envisaging how to direct them. I went to Uni and realised I could get paid for doing this.”

Jude spoke of her journey; she took any role from admin to teaching, reaching out to young people and trying to articulate these into transferable skills. “It’s not about working in one particular discipline.”

Our next panelist was Sarah Frankom, Artistic Director at the Royal Exchange Theatre, who conveyed a similar message, coming from a working class family up north and being the first person in her family to attend University. Sarah started her career working as a drama teacher in the East End. She said that the feeling of being working class and not feeling comfortable in the arts is something that never leaves you but that you can use this as a strength:

“Good theatre needs to asks questions. That implies that things can be challenged and new ideas can be possible. As humans we are the only species that can ask questions”

Her recent productions have included Death of a Salesman, A view from the bridge and KES. Her work has been seen at the National Theatre, The Bush, Soho Theatre and the Crucible, Sheffield.

Head of Programme at independent producers Fuel, Anthony Gray talked about being real “you need to be holistic with Artists, their creative side….how can I help this artist be the best they can possibly be”

Anthony supports a team of producers and alongside the Director to ensure their programmes reflect the core values of the organisation. As a trained classical singer who has worked in organisations such as the ROH, Barbican and The Lowry, Anthony wants to “make the sector as accessible to as many unheard voices as possible.”

Finally, Atri summed up the discussion with a resonating statement “For me theatre is a space where people get together to work stuff out, it’s a political art form.”

After some great questions from our lively audience and an excellent networking session, we were all invited to the evening performance of The Barbershop Chronicles.

We are so very grateful to our panel of inspirational speakers and to all at the Royal Exchange Theatre for hosting our Masterclass and offering everyone tickets to the evening performance of The Barbershop Chronicles which rounded up the evening perfectly.