Interview with Rob Watt

Rob Watt’s inaugural season as interim Artistic Director of Theatre Centre has launched with a digital writing course led by professional writers to champion the next generation of voices. I caught up with Rob to find out more. 

How did you get involved with theatre?
I failed my A-Levels! This is not a piece of advice. However, it meant that I went through clearing and got onto a Theatre Studies course where I learnt about directing, and I haven’t looked back since. Having worked in this industry for a long time I know that there is no golden route, or membership. You make your own way.

Tell me more about your inaugural season at Theatre Centre.
Well it certainly is a very different shape to what I could have imagined. Emma and I started as Executive Director and Artistic Director respectively at Theatre Centre about 4 months ago. We never thought, as did the rest of us, that a pandemic was going to radically shift the way we worked and lived our lives; it certainly wasn’t in the job description.

Essentially, we wanted to be useful in this odd time. Useful to teachers, young people, parents and communities. We have created an eight-week Online Writing Course led by professional writers for young people aged 11-16, their teachers and parents. We have also made three of our previous touring shows available for free for schools to stream.
We have created the TC Journal, a space for young people to reflect on this extraordinary time. A place to record their feelings, what they’re up to and how they are keeping in touch with their friends.

Next week we will be launching ImagiNation; 19 brilliant writers have created stories for the nation to tell. We will be launching all 19 scripts for anyone to record and submit to us. We will then create a film of the stories from these submissions.

What are you most excited about?
That is a difficult question; I am genuinely excited about it all. Emma, our Executive Director, did the maths this week and we are currently engaging over 23 individual writers under contract over 31 writers’ commissions or contracts between April – June. To be working with so many artists in this time is exhilarating. I am also excited about two new partnership with Theatre503 and Soho Theatre.

What can audiences expect?
Teachers, students and parents will be able to learn from some of the best writers in the industry. Individuals, families, flat mates, friends, strangers, school children, care homes, youth theatres will be able to make and create work through ImagiNation. Young people will be able to reflect through the TC Journal. This season is about ‘doing’ rather than ‘watching’.

How is everyone at Theatre Centre coping with the current situation?
As a company we have had to adapt, how we hold meetings, how information is distributed, the fundamentals of how we work. Generally, we are doing very well. I even held a three-day script development session for Birds and Bees, our new touring show, with the writer, sound designer and four actors over Zoom. It worked, it wasn’t as wholesome as being in the room with them all, but we were still able to explore the script and characters. There was something missing though, the nuances of being in a space with a group of people, the way bodies move, the silences, all things that I took for granted.

What can the public do to help support Theatre Centre?
Have a look at the Online Writing Course, and take part in ImagiNation when it launches.
Tell us how we can help; we know that it is currently particularly hard for young people and teachers and parents. If there is anything you think we can help with then we are listening.

Photo credit: Suzi Corker

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