Producer Profile: Joey Dawson
This week, we sat down with Bursary recipeint Joey Dawson to chat about his producing career and his show RUCKUS at Southwark Playhouse.
Joey Dawson is the Producer and Owner of Reid Productions. He is currently working for the National Theatre as a Digital Producer. Prior to this engagement, Joey was the CEO of the Wildcard Theatre Company from 2015 to 2021. Joey received his producer training from NFTS, ITC and Stage One - it was from this final organisation that he received the Stage One Bursary Award.
Producing credits for theatre: RUCKUS (Southwark Playhouse & Summerhall, 2022), Manic Street Creature (Paines Plough ROUNDABOUT, 2022), Electrolyte (Pleasance Theatre, 2018-2019), 17 (VAULT Festival, 2019), The Cat’s Mother (Underbelly & VAULT Festival, 2018), After Party (Pleasance Theatre, 2017), A Midsummer Night’s Dream (Broadway Theatre, 2016).
Producing credits for film: Brother Leo’s Naked (2021), Broken Gargoyles (2021), HUNCH (2020), The Skin She Sheds (2020).
CONTENT WARNINGS FOR THIS PRODUCTION:
Ruckus contains strong themes which some people may find difficult. This includes scenes of coercive control and domestic violence, scenes of suicidal ideation, and scenes of sensitive subject matters.
Wildcard, the creators of Ruckus, have designed a self care guide for audiences. Please click here to read the guide.
If you have any questions about the show, please don’t hesitate to email [email protected].
What drew you to become a producer? What elements do you enjoy most?
The pure creative thrill of producing is what keeps me engaged most of the time. It can feel like a roller coaster, with many twists and turns, ups and downs and I believe it to be this ever changing vocation that keeps my brain fizzing with excitement each day. The responsibilities of a producer are varied day-to-day and as someone who can’t stand the monotony of most jobs, pursuing producing as a career was like pushing at an open door.
Before finding my feet in the theatre industry, I found myself gravitating towards story-tellers and at first I thought I wanted to be one - to act rather than produce - but it soon dawned on me that seeing stories through from ideation to public production was what really drew me to the role. The adrenaline rush of seeing audiences collectively react to something you’ve created is like nothing else on this planet. Producers are a lucky bunch; we have the opportunity to influence crowds of people on a visceral level while simultaneously quenching our own entrepreneurial thirst.
What is your definition of commercial theatre and what motivates you to produce it?
Commercial Theatre for me is a creative venture in public story-telling; a venture that can sustain itself financially and reward the risk-takers who helped bring it to life.
My motivation to produce commercially stems from an itch to entertain people while also wanting to create products and businesses that grow beyond me as an individual. A part of me is also craving and chasing that dream of the hit show that becomes part of the fabric of the theatre industry. That being said, what motivates me more often than not is the opportunity to work with creatives at the top of their game; individuals who are able to bring a craft to the stage for the entertainment of others. When you find that sweet spot between the team you’ve assembled and the story you're telling, it’s magic.
What’s the best piece of advice you have received as a producer?
The legendary producer, Paul Elliott, invited me to have coffee with him very early on in my career. I was like a rabbit in highlights in his buzzing office. Paul was very gracious with his time and when I left I felt I had enough theatre-producer-anecdotes to see me through any situation. However, the overwhelming message that seeded in my brain was that taking risks should not be seen as a worry or concern, because if you’re hard-working, diligent, trustworthy and able to build relationships there will always be someone willing to help you - especially, in the lowest of circumstances. To paraphrase Paul: ‘You may be hanging from the cliff-edge, by the tips of your fingernails, about to lose grip... And someone will be there to catch you.’ Since then, I’ve been able to embolden myself and I’ve never looked back.
How has the Bursary award supported your career?
I was at a crossroads in my career, stuck in the subsidised cycle of not being able to produce anything unless it had a grant-making organisation behind it; and then only feeling like the work I could produce had to appease certain story parameters. Thankfully, the Bursary helped shake things up in all the best ways. I was able to do a number of things and, as I’ve mentioned before, the Bursary helped connect me with some of my heroes in the industry - people I thought well out of reach - but thanks to the reputation of Stage One, these individuals not only connected with me, but quickly became my mentors.
What are the core themes of Ruckus and why should we come and see it?
RUCKUS, is a one-woman thriller - it’s compelling, unsettling and explores the suppression and destruction caused by coercive control and inspired by the daunting and real stories of real women. Audiences are taken through the sensations of being at the beginning of a coercively controlled relationship. The production is tense and thought-provoking and will raise questions about women’s vulnerabilities to psychologically violent relationships within today’s society. It explores how easy it is to be trapped in a cycle of threats, humiliation and intimidation and the system of power in our society which enables and protects the actions of perpetrators. Lou (Jenna Fincken, writer and performer) is a 28-year-old primary school teacher who’s wholly aware the audience are watching her. She wants to show them exact moments in her relationship, breaking down the progression of coercion as Lou journeys from freedom to being trapped.
With the incorporation of a visceral sound design, Jenna Fincken draws us from our comfortable place as an audience, right into Lou’s experiences as she explores how a relationship that’s anything but loving can develop. From establishing love and trust, via isolation, monopolising perception, inducing debility and exhaustion, enforcing trivial demands, punishments, rewards, threats and degradation…the audience are with Lou every step of the way. Jenna Fincken makes use of reports from leading charities such as SafeLives as well as the work of leading sociologists, investigative journalists and researchers tackling domestic abuse and coercive control, to create an accurate and experiential play.
What have you found most challenging with this production?
RUCKUS has had a curious development and I’ve seen first hand how this story about a coercively controlled relationship has been dismissed, side-stepped and challenged at every step of the way. You sometimes work on a show that glides through pre-production and effortlessly lands in front of an audience; RUCKUS was not one of these shows. But, the obstacles we faced only made us more determined for it to be a success, to prove the gatekeepers wrong and I’m eternally grateful to the creative team for persevering, because the response we felt in Edinburgh (for the Fringe Festival) was incredible - four/five star reviews, awards and plenty of industry attention. I knew from the outset that the production had a spark and it’s nice - on this occasion - to be proved right.
What do you have coming up next?
In the immediate future, I am looking to transfer the production of Manic Street Creature to London. This production had an exceptional reception in Edinburgh this year and we are currently looking into all the various options and planning next steps… watch this space, as they say!
Aside from that, I am concluding my EIS development fund which will help me produce a slate of shows, as opposed to one production at a time. I’m very grateful to my Stage One mentors for guiding me through this process and I’m looking forward to what the future holds.