Sarah Frankcom names those who inspire her the most.
I grew up in Sheffield in the late 70s early 80s, when Clare Venables was programming and directing in the newly opened Crucible Theatre. She was an exciting and very visible artistic director who believed passionately in creating an inclusive and welcoming building for everyone in the City and took amazing risks in her work. She placed a particular emphasis on engaging young people and enabled them to feel absolute ownership of the building. It was this vision and practice that inspired me when the Royal Exchange Theatre reinvigorated its artistic aspirations recently. Most importantly, I knew that it was possible for a woman to run a building successfully. That made a massive difference.
Paul founded and runs The Poor School in Kings Cross, London, offering drama training to students who can't afford traditional drama schools. I studied and then directed at the school in my early 20s. Paul is a complex, passionate, sometimes difficult man and a brilliant teacher of acting who is unnervingly honest with his students. I still draw on some of the things I learnt from him in my own rehearsals and can vividly remember some of the heart-stopping acting I saw in his work there.
The Wooster Group
In New York in the early 90s I discovered The Wooster group. Brace Up, an experimental version of Three Sisters, blew my mind. As theatre makers they were completely ahead of their time. The integrated use of film and live sound and the juxtaposition of ideas and visual images made me reconsider what a piece of theatre could be. They continue to lead the way in live performance.
Robert has often been described as the quiet man of British theatre and is a writer of rare humanity. He is a truly inspiring playwright whose plays I return to time and time again, seeing more layers the older I get. His characters are extraordinary in their capacity to surprise audiences. I first met Robert when he came to talk to some students I was directing. We became friends and I have directed two of his plays. At a formative stage in my career he gave me the confidence to believe in my instincts as a director. He is a wise and generous collaborator and a unique and lovely man.
The Royal Exchange main house is a theatre in the round and actors are at the centre of everything. I've worked with Max for almost ten years on three plays and it's been fantastic to see her grow in stature and confidence. She is an exciting theatre actress with whom audiences completely identify. Rehearsals for ‘Miss Julie’ earlier this year were an inspiring and galvanising experience. Max is completely fearless and open to anything: it's a gift that challenges directors to raise their game. I love the fact that her work is so important to her and that she still chooses to take risks in regional theatre. We will be working together again in Manchester next year on something rather exciting and unexpected. I can't wait.
Sarah Frankcom is Artistic Director at the Manchester Royal Exchange Theatre. http://www.royalexchange.co.uk/page.aspx