Guildford's Yvonne Arnaud Theatre

Joanna Read_Guildford's Yvonne Arnaud Theatre_Chief Executive and Theatre Director CREDIT Darren Pepe

New year welcomes new Director

The new year hails an exciting new chapter as Joanna Read commences her leadership role as Chief Executive and Theatre Director of Guildford’s Yvonne Arnaud Theatre on Monday, January 7. Joanna tells us about the opportunities that her new position presents…

Having enjoyed huge success as Chief Executive and Artistic Director of Salisbury Playhouse, followed by a tenure of outstanding accomplishments as Principal of The London Academy of Dramatic Arts (LAMDA), there are many reasons why the prospect of leading the Guildford Theatre posed an exciting opportunity for Joanna.
“I’m a theatre director by profession – I had the most fantastic time running Salisbury Playhouse – and I believe very strongly in regional theatre. I feel Guildford deserves a brilliant theatre and one of the real attractions about coming here was knowing there is an appetite for theatre in this town and in the county.

“The Yvonne Arnaud is held in very high esteem in the profession and there is a fantastic opportunity here to work as a team to bring a little bit of fresh life to the place. I’m chomping at the bit to get going, I really am.”

Joanna is familiar with the venue, both on a personal level as a Surrey resident and professionally, having worked closely with the Theatre during her years running one of the country’s leading producing regional theatres, Salisbury Playhouse.
“I brought work, such as Jamaica Inn and Playing for Time, here on tour when I was at Salisbury, and we co-produced with the Yvonne Arnaud, so my own work has already been on the stage. In that way, it does feel a bit like coming home.

“I came and saw This House at the Yvonne Arnaud last summer when I was thinking about applying for the role and I walked into the Theatre and remembered the fantastic auditorium and that brilliant stage, and I felt the most comfortable I’ve been in a long time; it just felt right.”

Joanna brings a wealth of experience to the role, but which elements of her extensive career does she think will serve her the best?
“The programming from Salisbury will be invaluable, as will my contacts from my time at LAMDA. I used to be Head of Education at Birmingham Rep so I know how important it is to have a Youth Theatre. I think I’ll draw on everything and I’m sure, I hope, I’ll learn new things too. It will be a challenge, as well as an opportunity.”

Keen to hit the ground running, does Joanna already have plans and ideas for what she hopes to explore and develop during her leadership of the Yvonne Arnaud?
“I’m keen to develop making our own work. I think it’s terrific that we make our own pantomime and I think we’re going to do a few of our own co-productions, generated by us as the makers and the producer of the work.

“The Yvonne Arnaud is known amongst actors and within the industry as a great place to open a tour. Actors love it because we’re so close to London, they receive a friendly welcome from the Theatre team and they enjoy our audiences, so we need to capitalise on that.

“I’m interested in building up some of our straight drama and comedy drama audiences, because I think that’s got legs for touring. I also want to make sure we’re offering more interesting and diverse productions here. And I’m excited to work with the Youth Theatre too.”

What does Joanna envisage to be one of the biggest challenges that her new venture will present?
“This is the first time I’ve worked in a venue that hasn’t had Arts Council funding, so the commercial ask here is much tougher. It’s invaluable that this Theatre has its support from Guildford Borough Council, and to come into this role knowing that the Council recognises how vital theatre is to the local economy and how much we can give back to the community is tremendous. It’s great that they appreciate our value and our worth. It strikes me as a really smart piece of thinking.”

To see the productions on at the Yvonne Arnaud Theatre in the coming months please visit >>>

Guildford Shakespeare Company

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Now in its 7th year, WILL’S BIRTHDAY BASH is Guildford Shakespeare Company’s annual celebration of William Shakespeare birthday, 23 April 1564. Will’s Birthday Bash has always been a sell-out event, and once again the award-winning theatre company have lined an exciting programme to mark the occasion, kicking off with their 7th SONNET WALK WEEKEND (21-22 April). Akin to a treasure hunt, the Sonnet Walks take audiences on a mystery walking-tour where walkers will encounter Shakespeare and his characters in the least likely of places. In previous year years, the especially designed route has included the roof of House of Fraser, a fortune teller in Rack’s Close, a prisoner in the Castle Keep, and last year St Catherine’s Ruin and a field of sheep!

This year, GSC are very excited to announce a brand new venue for the walks – the historic West Horsley Place. The Grade I listed manor house and surrounding estate were inherited by Bamber Gascoigne, who has set up a charity, The Mary Roxburghe Trust, to rescue and restore West Horsley Place and to establish there a vibrant centre for the performing and visual arts and for the teaching of crafts. The incredible house and grounds will be taken over by actors for the weekend, allowing audiences to discover not only fabulous speeches and sonnets from Shakespeare, but also this magnificent home once visited by Elizabeth I.

The Bash continues with a special staged reading of Shakespeare’s THE TWO NOBLE KINSMEN, on Wednesday 25 April. Based loosely on Chaucer’s Knight’s Tale, this collaboration with John Fletcher is pure Jacobean drama with dark sibling rivalry, unrequited love and deception…it also includes a group of amateur actors (harking back to the successes of Dream?) and... wait for it... a baboon! Following the sell-out staged readings of Pericles, Cymbeline and Henry VIII, join us for another of Shakespeare’s rarely performed plays.

The final event in the Bash is GSC’s flagship youth theatre, the GSC YOUNG COMPANY, second public performance (29-30 April). Devised, written and performed by their group of 12 – 16 year old aspiring actors, the performance is based on the three Shakespeare plays GSC staged last year, Julius Caesar, A Midsummer Night’s Dream and The two Gentlemen of Verona. The play cleverly intertwines story lines from all three plays, and includes new characters inspired by the originals. “That was the most inspiring evening” Audience member 2017

Tickets for Will’s Birthday Bash go on sale 19 March (Priority Booking opens 12 March). Tickets £10 - £16.
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