Bringing investment in theatre to the UK’s nations and regions
John Stalker is focussing on increasing levels of investment for theatre production across all the regions of the UK. Here is how getting behind theatre producers with this focus can reinvigorate theatre for audiences and artists, despite the challenges of covid and the cost of living.
Interview by Nicola Baird
Owner & Director
John Stalker Productions Ltd
Director & Excutive Producer
Music & Lyrics Ltd
Former Chief Executive
Festival City Theatres Trust
Former Chief Executive
Birmingham Repertory Theatre
Former Administrative Director
- 30 year career leading major UK theatres
- Has produced shows across the UK, in London and internationally including Denmark, Canada and Singapore
- Created Music & Lyrics Ltd, a Consortium of some of the UK’s largest independent number one presenting venues
- Highlights for Music & Lyrics include UK tours of The King and I, High Society, Fiddler on the Roof, Oklahoma!, Chitty, Chitty Bang Bang, The Addams Family and Doctor Dolittle
- Produced the original production of The Snowman that has played for over 25 consecutive years in the West End
- Currently a Board Member of The League of Independent Producers
“I am working with some great writers just now. They are keen to create shows with a clear sense of place which is easily recognisable to audiences, so they can feel it’s almost part of them, part of their lives, part of their story,” explains John who has two new plays and four musicals in development and/or production. The first is a laugh-out-loud comedy, The Birds and the Bees, set in Norfolk but with a strong mother/daughter relationship USP. “We tried it our in east Anglia last spring in a co-production with three leading regional theatres. We had a lot of audience members coming out saying they really enjoyed it because ‘this is about me – me and my daughter’, ‘this is my story’, or ‘you’ve hit the nail on the head’.”
“As luck would have it I have three musicals all set in Yorkshire. While that’s a coincidence there is something about the place and what it represents that makes it instantly recognisable for and of appeal to audiences. Something you might call the Happy Valley factor - without the murders!”
“So, we will be doing our level best to play to large and enthusiastic audiences and to make good returns for our investors. We will also be getting them involved at all stages of the process - they can go ‘behind the scenes’, meet the casts and creative teams and entertain their friends as they watch a show they know they have been instrumental in creating. That’s a real thrill as much as is playing a central role in supporting the future of regional theatre.”
“Investors are brave and farsighted individuals who put their money where their mouths are. Of course they want to receive profit on that investment but they also have a passion for making a difference. Supporting productions that enrich a local community is often an equally valid return for that investment.”
“I’m working with writers keen to create work with a clear sense of place which is easily identifiable to audiences, so they can feel it’s almost a part of them,” explains John who has ready two new plays and four musicals in development and production. A comedy, The Birds and The Bees, is set to tour the UK in spring and summer 2023.
The Birds and the Bees has an environmental message but also a real relationship USP. “When we tested it last spring (2022) in Ipswich, Norwich and Bury St Edmunds we had lot of people saying they really enjoyed it because ‘this is about me – me and my daughter’, or ‘my mother and I’, or you’ve hit the nail on the head’.”
With just four actors The Birds and the Bees is currently being cast for a 16-week nationwide tour starting in Surrey at Guildford’s Yvonne Arnaud Theatre in early May.
“It’s important that a play really connects with the audience and that can be subject matter, emotion, relationships or its physical location,” stresses John. “We’ve also got a musical set in Yorkshire – there’s something about the place, and what it represents, and the combination of TV’s The Last Tango in Halifax and Happy Valley that means everyone knows the place we are talking about. Those elements are vital to gain people’s attention. They’ll feel “I think this is about me’, or ‘I could recognise this’ or it’s about families so ‘that’s why I’ll go and see it’.
“We’ll be doing our best to play to large and enthusiastic audiences and make a profit. Investors want to see profits, but are also passionate about the theatre and really want to be part of helping an industry that is really important to them. So even if a show takes time to bring in profits but gets good reviews, that can be pleasing for investors.
Although investing in theatre can be high risk, it can potentially generate high returns and be a rewarding and sociable activity.
For a relatively low investment, investors may enjoy the following benefits:
- Complimentary tickets to opening night performances
- Invitations to meet the cast and company at opening night parties
- Invitations to open dress rehearsals
- Opportunity to organise special theatre evenings for friends, colleagues, or clients
- Advance notice of further investment opportunities
If you would like further information on investing with John Stalker Productions please contact me.