As he prepares to leave Nottingham Playhouse, Giles Croft pays tribute to those who have guided and inspired his career.
When I was growing up my uncle owned a handmade chocolate company called Prestat and I used to look forward to huge Easter eggs, delicious double mints and terrific truffles whenever he’d visit us in Bath. In an earlier life he’d been an actor and a playwright and, although he’d had some success, he’d had his share of failure and disappointment. He was the first person to suggest that I might go into the theatre and up until his death he was a great support and enthusiast (even if he fell asleep in most of my shows).
I was entranced from the opening moments of La Belle et la Bête, which I saw in my late teens. Soon I was working my way through Jean Cocteau’s complete works and any biographies that I could find.
Unlike most youthful obsessions, I haven’t grown out of this one. I still watch La Belle et la Bête and Orphée at regular intervals, to be reminded of how powerful a poetic imagination can be. A signed limited edition lithograph is one of my most prized possessions and one of the reasons I like Robert Lepage’s work is Cocteau’s influence on him.
Having said that about youthful obsessions, this is another one that I’ve retained. I have always liked the blues (thanks to my brother) and, for me, Green is the consummate blues guitarist. To quote B.B. King, “He has the sweetest tone I ever heard; he was the only one who gave me the cold sweats.”
Who knows why a butcher from Bethnal Green had that ability, but I am sure that his Jewishness must have had something to do with it. He had four or five glorious years of music making before drugs and mental illness took their toll. If I need to be reminded of how simplicity and soul can move the spirit, then I turn up ‘Jumping at Shadows’.
My first job in the arts was running a youth theatre in Bath and one of the youths was Howard’s daughter. He was approachable and friendly and didn’t seem like an actor to me. He shared stories of working with Joan Littlewood (he’d been a founder member of the Theatre Workshop), gave me a copy of his book (if the person I lent it to sees this, I’d like it back) and made me aware of politics in theatre.
It was my five years working at the National Theatre with Richard that taught me how to be an artistic director. He is a fine director of plays but it was his generosity of spirit, his care for the work of others and his support for younger artists that I took with me to Watford and Nottingham.
Martin Luther King Jr.
Need I say more?
Giles Croft is Artistic Director of Nottingham Playhouse. He will step down in 2017 after 18 years in post.