UK theatre signs bright new talent

Elizabeth Newman must be the envy of her theatre friends, not yet 30, she has already held two artistic director positions, one at Southwark Playhouse and the other at Shared Property Theatre Company – and now she has just secured her third at Octagon Theatre, Bolton in the UK.

The company’s announcement of Newman as their new AD is significant: she is now one the youngest women in the UK to push through the glass ceiling to take a senior position at a professional producing house.

A graduate of the prestigious Regional Theatre Young Director Scheme, Newman was promoted following a stint as assistant and associate director at the Octagon, where she has worked since 2009. During this time the Croydon-born director made an impressive impact act on the regional theatre scene in North West England: all of her productions in 2014 were nominated for Manchester Theatre Awards.

Maybe it is because I am a small woman, but I believe if you’re nearer the ground you don’t have as far to fall

Does she feel she is ahead of her time?

‘The age question is interesting, and I never quite know how to respond to it,’ laughs Newman when I ask her about her relative youth, ‘Growing up is the thing we all have in common, and I imagine the people commenting on it are thinking about themselves when they were my age.’

Newman’s appointment may have only just been announced, but she is already making big plans: ‘I am really interested in reaching Asian communities in Bolton who have been here for years, and I am really interested in reaching refugees too.’

She also sees the Octagon’s size as an advantage: ‘I think being small is a benefit – you can be nimble. Maybe it is because I am a small woman, but I believe if you’re nearer the ground you don’t have as far to fall, you can adapt quicker, and everything is more tightly knitted.’

Full interview out in issue 8 of IAM.

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