As Joanna Read takes up the role of chief executive and theatre director at Guildford’s Yvonne Arnaud, she tells about her plans for the theatre
Where does your love of theatre come from? Seeing plays and musicals when I was growing up in Gloucestershire – especially at the Cheltenham Everyman Theatre, Bristol Old Vic and Bristol Hippodrome. And, I guess, being in school plays when I was younger.
How did you get in to theatre directing? I studied drama at Bristol University and then I worked on the London Fringe Festival for a bit and then I got a bursary from the Young Vic to train at the Sheffield Crucible Theatre.
What does a threatre director do? The most important aspects of the job involve choosing the work and programming the plays and the repertoire that’s coming on stage. A big part of the job also involved assessing how the audience responds to that work and seeing what their tastes are. And, overall, making sure that the theatre is a vibrant place for people to visit.
What have been some of your biggest career highlights? In my most recent role as principal of The London Academy of Dramatic Arts (LAMDA) I completed a successful £28.2million capital programme to build 10 rehearsals studios, two theatres and a TV suite. Plus, I won a Theatrical Management Association Award for my production of The Hired Man at Salisbury Playhouse. Before I left, we built a new education room and rehearsal studio at the theatre too. people having the ability and opportunity to access highquality theatre wherever they are. I think it’s essential for a town like Guildford, and Surrey as a county, to have good theatres that people can engage with, so that they don’t always have to travel up to London.
What are your future plans for the theatre? We would like to increase our production work. At the moment we make our own panto at Guildford, but I would like to increase that to produce more of our own work and tour it too. Guildford used to be the place where you would try out your West End shows before you took them into town and I’d like to get that back up again. essential role to play in arts and education and I think every young person should have the ability to go to their local theatre and see a play, go to a museum or see a concert. I think it’s an essential part to our upbringing and I think the arts are essential to our wellbeing and mental health. And regional theatre has a really critical, key role to play in that.
Do you still enjoy going to see live theatre? Oh yes! I’m an absolute fan of live theatre. I go for the choice of play rather than the theatre. I came and saw This House at Guildford when it was on tour, which was great because the auditorium was packed and it was a fantastic production. I like going to the Young Vic and The National Theatre too. Just recently I saw A Very Very Very Dark Matter at The Bridge Theatre, starring Jim Broadbent – that was a really dark and funny show.
Keep an eye on what’s coming up at the Yvonne Arnaud Theatre by visiting: yvonne-arnaud. co.uk