THEATRE: Jacksons Lane Theatre director, Adrian Berry
Written by: Sophie Taylor
From accidentally auditioning for drama school to writing a David Bowie show endorsed by the Starman himself, Jacksons Lane Theatre director, Adrian Berry spoke to us about hard work, Helsinki and buying a one way ticket out of Nottingham aged 19.
Award winning writer and director, Adrian Berry, is a bit of a Renassiance man. As Jacksons Lane Artistic Director, he’s also a member of the advisory panel of The Roundhouse, has been a consultant for Africa International Festival and Mosaic, not to mention leading a ten-venue outer-London consortium for Arts Council England. But Adrian is also a huge music nerd, writing for cult zine God Is In The Tv and somehow finding time to tour with his band, Alberteen regularly playing on 6 Music with albums gaining 5* broadsheet reviews no less. Take a breath Adrian, would you!
He is obviously very busy. In the past year he has graced festivals in Hungary, Spain, the Netherlands and Sweden with his presence, just last week returning from Helsinki. Gathering inspiration and friends, he was also sponsoring The Total Theatre and Jacksons Lane Award for Circus, seeing the shortlisted work and judging the winners in two categories.
“It’s been a full on Summer. We’ve just kicked off the new season.”
I hear you’re bringing over a Festival from Lapland?
“Yes. I’ve never been to it, but a lot of my friends have performed there. It’s a tiny, tiny village in the north of Lapland where it never gets dark, with a river running right through it. It’s called Silence Festival, and is the most amazing celebration of Finnish and Nordic culture, drinking and eating in 24 hour daylight.
All the locals put people up because there are no hotels or bars, so they create this whole festival environment themselves. This year they assembled a tight wire across the river and had a tight wire artist walking across the middle. I got to know one or two of the directors: Sakari who’s a juggler, and Joonas. We were just joking about it a year ago. I said we should do a satellite version at Jacksons Lane, wouldn’t that be funny. And they said well, okay. I thought are you serious?
They’d actually wanted to do a satellite version of it for a while. We’re not going to try and make it 24 hour daylight here or anything, that is something that’s specific to that village. But we do want to try to recreate the relationship between noise and silence. We’re thinking of using other venues around the area, make it a proper festival and we’re going to do stuff in Highgate Woods as well. That’ll be the first weekend of September next year hopefully. Exactly a year from now.”
Let’s jump from next year right back to your beginnings. Is it true you accidentally auditioned for drama school at 19?
“I was really miserable living in Nottingham. I’d dropped out of college and I was living in a council flat with my Mum, rubbing motorcycles down for a living with my brother.
I was getting up at 4 in the morning and not earning much. I started wondering what I was doing with my life and my friend was studying at Liverpool Uni. One day I woke up for this job with my brother and I just thought, I can’t do this anymore. I nicked just enough money out of a jar to get myself a one way ticket to Liverpool. But my mate didn’t have a phone so I had no idea if he’d be there or not. I thought, what if I’m stuck? So I took a box of my mum’s country and western records to sell.”
It’s such a good idea, did she know?
“I did tell her eventually. When she passed away I inherited them. As I turned up to Liverpool my mate wasn’t there at his flat and it was raining. I walked around Liverpool for the day trying to sell these records, but no-one wanted them. I went back to my friend’s flat at about 6 in the evening and he was there. He took me in and I never went back.
While I was there I applied for a Stage Management course. I’d never done anything like that in my life but I got interested in theatre as I’d been studying journalism. I just wanted something to do, but the course got canceled. So when they phoned me up to tell me I said, “but I’ve moved to Liverpool?” That’s when they asked me if I could act. I’d never acted in my life! They told me there was one place left on the Acting Course. So my mate taught me the speech from Richard II, I auditioned and I was given the place.”
That’s a fantastic story
“It’s a freaky story. Essentially a lot of people are born into it, they’ve got rich parents, they’ve got trust funds, that’s just the reality of the industry. But then you’ve got people like me, and a lot of people I work with, who fell into it. It makes you appreciate what you do more because it’s hard work in this business. So I still feel quite lucky.”
Was it similar the way you got into circus theatre?
“My first job was running the education department at The Albany in Deptford. There was this UK based circus group called Archaos. We had our own version called Mameloucos which was punk circus basically, based in The Albany. I used to do the education work with them so I was exposed to quite a lot of circus in my career. It’s just something that stuck with me for the last twenty years, being part of this world and dipping in and out of it. Finally I came here and realised we could make Jacksons Lane a home for circus too”
I’ve noticed you also write for God Is In The Tv zine
“Yeah, I’m also in a band (Alberteen) and write for Total Theatre.” (Adrian wrote a cracking review of the Edinburgh Fringe this year, comparing each circus performance to a band and an album this time). “I like to keep life busy and diverse. Music and performance are passions for me.
I’m writing and directing a David Bowie themed show at the moment, From Ibiza to the Norfolk Broads.”
Brilliant! How’s that going?
“Good, we’re in rehearsals at the moment. We’re doing three weeks in Waterloo from October 18th then it goes on tour”
What can we expect?
“It’s a solo piece, it’s magic realism, with an amazing actor called Alex Walton who can play a variety of characters. It’s about a boy who discovers David Bowie, becomes an obsessive and visits all the places where David was, from the Midlands to London. When I originally wrote it, Bowie read the script and really liked it. We’d been talking about doing it again and then he died. I wondered if we could still do it but the opposite thing happened. A lot of people got in touch and said they’d love to get involved. So it opens October 18th, runs for three weeks in Waterloo before going on a national tour around the UK into 2017.”
Book tickets for Berry’s From Ibiza to the Norfolk Broads.
Adrian is also currently in rehearsals with the Lost In Translation tour of The Hogwallops, a circus show inspired by Roald Dahl’s The Twits described as ‘one of the most anarchic, maniacal hours of circus’, Fest Magazine. Which, if Adrian Berry has anything to do with it, I’m not surprised.
After our chat, we go for a tour around the Jacksons Lane Theatre and rehearsal rooms full of mirrors, tumbling mats and ropes. There’s an exciting buzz about the place and everyone is keen to talk to Adrian with various ideas and requests. We leave him to get back to rehearsals while we start frantically booking before his shows are all sold out again.
Photos: Mike Barry
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