In Conversation: Marianne Elliott and Sarah Frankcom

Royal Exchange Theatre Platform Events in association with University of Manchester. 

I was lucky enough to attend this lunchtime talk between Marianne Elliott, Director of the current production at the Royal Exchange Theatre, Husbands and Sons, and the Royal Exchange's Artistic Director, Sarah Frankcom. I have already seen and enjoyed the production and my review can be found here

 It was very interesting to hear Sarah and Marianne's experience of directing in general and within the space of the Royal Exchange in particular. The intimacy of the audience, so close to the actors, gives this a special dimension, especially when contrasted with the void outside the auditorium. I have never yet managed to take a photograph which quite captures the scale of the sputnik-like theatre, placed within the nineteenth century cotton exchange building with its marble pillars and soaring glass domes. It was so impressive to hear Marianne describe it as the best theatre space she has ever seen in the world.
  Both Marianne and Sarah talked about how they got into directing and how they develop a play over a period of time. Sarah described the team approach at the Royal Exchange to commissioning plays for each season and how providing a breadth of choice is important to attract as wide a range of people as possible. The theatre going experience must reflect the fact that the theatre is rooted in Manchester. Both agreed that it is difficult to pin down what attracts them to a particular piece but it must provoke an emotional response within them.

       I enjoyed hearing about the practicalities of their roles from the straightforward availabilities of actors and negotiating rights for plays to the techniques they use when working with the actors or how they learnt to interview. It was good to hear that there are now more female directors working in Britain but as in all walks of life, more needs to be done to enable women to participate fully in the role. One thing they both agreed on was the huge impact that Greg Herzov, previously an Artistic Director at the Royal Exchange, had on them as a mentor and inspiration. 

My thanks to the Royal Exchange Theatre for the complimentary tickets. I will be back!


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