Five Minutes With... Theatr Clwyd artistic director Tamara Harvey

Joining the Mold theatre and arts centre in 2015, Tamara Harvey had previously directed extensively around the UK and internationally, including in the West End. And she's looking forward to opening the theatre's doors to creative talent and the public once again.

What’s your role at the theatre?

I’m the artistic director. I oversee all of the arts in our building - theatre, film, visual arts, dance, music - working with our teams to put together a programme that has something for everyone. Lots of my time is spent talking with artists - actors, directors, writers, designers, composers - developing shows, discussing new ideas and shaping projects. With each project, we think about who it’s for, why it’s an important story to be telling right now and how we can make sure it reaches out into our community.

What inspired you to work in theatre?

Pouring orange squash for the actors in West Side Story at my high school when I was 11. I was too young to be allowed in the show, so that was the closest I could get to the action and I was completely starstruck. Rarely has orange squash been poured into plastic cups with such reverence and care.

What’s your best moment at Theatr Clwyd so far?

This morning. Walking into the building past the long grasses and weeds growing up around it, I felt such despair at its closure. Then, as I walked up the stairs, I heard music coming from the Anthony Hopkins Theatre. I crept into the back of the auditorium and on stage was George - a local boy who got a place to study with the Royal Ballet in September but had nowhere to practise during lockdown, so asked to use our empty stage. As I stood there watching him dance, I thought maybe we’re going to be ok. Because even in the midst of chaos and uncertainty, creativity still finds a way - there is still music in the empty theatre. We are still finding a way to serve our community and we will keep finding a way to bring people up our hill to share stories, and to laugh, cry and dream together.

What challenges is Covid-19 bringing the theatre?

When I became artistic director I never imagined we’d have to find a way to run the theatre with its doors closed and its stages empty. The immediate challenge is how we stay afloat with no income and no certainty as to when we can reopen. But there is a quieter challenge that’s harder to meet head on - the challenge of how we make sure that all of us - our staff, our audiences, our freelance artists, our whole community - stay strong in mind and spirit so that we’re all ready to come together again as soon as the world allows.

How has the theatre responded to Covid-19?

We’ve focussed on all the ways we can help our communities through this - with weekly challenges and fun online content via our Theatr Clwyd Together programme, with Zoom workshops for our regular companies, young and old, and with physical deliveries - food from our stores to local foodbanks, creative packs to vulnerable individuals, rainbow shoe boxes to children most in need. We’ve also been doing all that we can to continue developing work with freelance artists, so that they can survive through the crisis and we have wonderful shows to share once we can open our doors again.

What do you do to relax/in your spare time?

I’ve got two small children, so most of my spare time is spent with them - and it’s sometimes relaxing, sometimes not! If I have any time apart from that, watching cricket is my main source of joy, preferably with my dad. And I’ve just got into running (in the sense of jogging very slowly with lengthy walking intervals), which I’m finding really clears my head.

Which actor have been your favourite to work with?

My favourites tend to be the ones I’m working with at any given moment - being in a rehearsal room is such an intense and all-consuming experience. But if I have to choose right now… I love Victoria John, who I just worked with on Pavilion. And I would happily direct anything, anywhere with Jamie Ballard in it (who was Uncle Vanya with me and who I’ve worked with a number of times).

What’s been your favourite show?

It will sound like a cop out but again - each and every one, when I’m making them. Orpheus Descending was a particular highlight because I’d wanted to do the play for 20 years. And I’m of course massively excited about directing panto this year.

If you could ask people to do one thing to support the theatre and its work what that would be?

As soon as we throw open our doors again, come up the hill and see us - we miss you.

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