WHY I FOUNDED THE WELLS THEATRE FESTIVAL
I trained at Central School of Speech and Drama as a teacher and voice coach. After Central, my first job was as a stage door keeper, then a lighting operator in the West End. My big break came when I got job as assistant director at the Crucible Sheffield with the great late Clare Venables who became my mentor. Clare was an extraordinary director who taught me about ensemble and valuing every member of your cast. I then became Assistant Director at the RSC working Terry Hand and a number of other directors. I also work with the legendary voice coach, Cicely Berry and being involved in RSC voice workshops led to my love of voice and inspired me to develop my career as a director.
It was at the RSC that I found my love of Shakespeare and began to understand how accessible and relevant it is. After the RSC I worked at the National Theatre as Assistant Director and there I met our Festival Patron Sir Richard Eyre. I learnt so much from Richard’s insightful and creative casting and his influence has stayed with me throughout my career. I first worked with our other Festival Patron Dame Judi Dench on one of Richard’s West End transfers (Amy’s View?). Her wicked sense of humour and generosity of spirit inspired my confidence as I worked with her.
Since then, I have had a varied career and I have been very lucky to work with some amazing people including Madonna in a show called Up For Grabs, Dame Maggie Smith in the stage production of Lady in the Van and Ewan McGregor in Little Malcolm and his struggle against the Eunuchs and Benedict Cumberbatch in Hedda Gabler. I also worked as Assistant Director to Clarke Peters on the original production of Five Guys Named Moe and with Joan Rivers in her show, Broke and Alone a tour which I produced alongside my husband Neil Johnson who is the Wells Theatre Festival Producer.
Neil and I left London twenty years ago with four small children and made our life in Wells. Now I teach Drama at Sherborne School for Girls, and I recruit drama teachers for schools in China. I also I run Theatresaurus which offers Shakespeare courses and workshops for young people.
So because I don’t have quite enough on my plate and because live theatre is still so important to me, I decided to set up the Wells Theatre Festival. I am so glad I did and very excited and looking forward to our second year.