INTERVIEW WITH ROBIN RAYNER
Robin’s recent producing credits include: Fabric (UK Tour & Edinburgh Festival sell-out show) Winner: The Scotsman Fringe First Award 2016; Bubble Schmeisis (Edinburgh Festival); The Dogs of War (Old Red Lion) Winner: Most Promising Playwright, Off West End Awards 2016; The Confession Room (St. James Theatre Studio); The Fastest Clock in the Universe (Old Red Lion) 21st Anniversary Production, filmed for the V&A archives.
As Producer: Remote (St Ives Theatre & Drum Theatre Royal Plymouth); Oil & Trouble (workshop); Political Pageantry (Old Red Lion); Debbie Chapman: Queen of Hearts (Leicester Square Theatre & Edinburgh Festival); Under The Mistletoe (Battersea Barge); Christmas Is Miles Away (Hen & Chickens).
As Associate Producer: Next Fall (Southwark Playhouse) and Our Friends, the Enemy (UK Tour & Theater Row NYC).
As General Management: Freemason’s Tercentenary Celebration (Royal Albert Hall); The Olivier Awards 2017 (Royal Albert Hall, as Associate General Manager) and Foiled (Edinburgh Festival).
Robin received a Stage One Bursary and attended the Stage One New Producers’ Workshop in 2014.
At the moment you are…
Producing New York cabaret star Tori Scott in her UK debut Thirsty! The show opens in Brighton and then has three performances at Live at Zedel 28th, 29th & 30th July. It’s a hilarious mash up of ‘tragically true’ stories thrown perfectly together with an array of pop, rock and musical theatre songs. I am also general managing the Freemason’s Tercentenary Celebration at the Royal Albert Hall this October and Imagine If’s UK tour and Edinburgh run of You Forgot The Mince.
What does Stage One mean to you and how has Stage One developed your career?
When I took the big decision to move from acting to producing, I knew that it wouldn’t be a particularly easy next step. I used my instincts, experience of the industry and some trusty books to produce a couple of shows on the fringe with my new company TREMers, including the play Christmas Is Miles Away by Chloe Moss and the cabaret Under The Mistletoe. Following some wonderful support and advice from established producers, I could see that if I wanted to make a go of this new career, then I would need to introduce myself to Stage One. Tom O’Connell pointed me in the right direction and following a chat with Stage One, I applied to take part on the Stage One Workshop, which turned out to be a fantastic experience. The knowledge I learnt in those few days has stayed with me ever since and I’m still in touch and working with a number of the producers I met during the course.
I was privileged to be awarded a bursary a few months later to help develop the dance theatre project Oil & Trouble and produce Tim Foley’s critically acclaimed London debut The Dogs of War directed by Tom O’Brien. I was also paired up with my mentor Eleanor Lloyd who has given me the best advice, the most passionate support and is still the first person I call when I just can’t figure the numbers out or need to get something off my chest. Off the back of the bursary, I have general managed a number of shows and took the dive into producing my first full-length play commission. Following extensive research and development phases with the director and writer, the one-woman play Fabric was born. I booked a short tour of the South East followed by a month long run at Underbelly as part of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, which resulted in The Scotsman awarding the production a much-coveted Fringe First. Without Stage One’s past support, I wouldn’t have had the experience, insight, techniques, loyal sponsors or confidence to take on the project and receive such an accolade. Here’s to the next!
After Producing Theatre and Cabaret, what have you learnt from working across both areas?
They are different mediums for sure but I do apply a very similar groundwork when producing both Theatre and Cabaret shows. Here are the first three lessons that come to mind:
1. I’ve learnt that no matter the scale of the production, the level of focus and precision given to the project should be the same. Essentially - there are no small productions.
2. I’ve learnt that trust is a very important asset and I should be more mindful of who I give it to. When working across many different projects at the same time, it is very easy to let your guard down. That said, most people are the genuine article and I have developed wonderful relationships with numerous colleagues and artists over the years whose support I couldn’t do without.
3. From producing so many different styles of performance, I’ve come to learn that audiences want to be challenged, they want to see something that makes them feel, that takes them somewhere exciting or devastating or hilarious and forces them to contemplate their own existence. This lesson directly affects the projects I choose to work on, the venues I produce at, the artists I work with, the marketing techniques I use, the way I engage investors, what happens on that stage and ultimately the success of the production. Tori Scott might have you crying with laughter and Fabric might have you crying with heartache. One may run for four nights, the other may run for months. Both shows deserve the same level of care and attention if they are going to succeed and ultimately make a healthy return on your investment.
When did you first discover your passion for theatre and what was your journey to becoming a Theatre Producer?
I was very lucky to be given the gift of seeing West End productions from the age of about eight. Music, dance, acting and re-reading show programmes became my favourite pastimes – everything else became much less important for many years. My main focus was being on the stage, so would take part in amateur theatre shows and go to dancing/singing classes. At the same time, I would always be producing various shows in my garden, or garage, or at school. I ended up training as an actor at ArtsEd for three years, graduating back in 2008 with a BA in Musical Theatre. Then, after a fruitful few years of work, the producing drive came back and I made the decision to shake things up…just a little bit.
Last show you saw and loved?
Absolutely loved Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf.
What do you think, is the best thing about the Theatre Industry?
It has the power to change our world for the better.
What's the best piece of advice you've been given?
‘Everything is negotiable’. I love this statement. Before I had properly factored this great lesson into my working life, I was haplessly inclined to believe that the information given to me was always fair, true and the majority of the time, non-negotiable. Safe to say, negotiation is now one of my favourite parts of the job!
You can now apply to our Stage One Bursary scheme by clicking HERE and our Workshop by clicking HERE.