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Indhu Rubasingham, Artistic Director of the Kiln Theatre (Photo: Mark Douet)

Indhu Rubasingham on reopening the Kiln Theatre

Robin Johnson

By Robin Johnson Published 4 September 2018

“We’re at THAT point!”, Indhu Rubasingham begins – having admirably found the time to speak to me in the first place. The Artistic Director of the Kiln Theatre – until recently known as the Tricycle – stands at the culmination of a massive redevelopment project years in the making, the achievements of which are vast.

Tomorrow night, the Kiln reopens for previews of its new play, Holy Sh!t. Below, Indhu tells us about the project and why, at this moment, she’s particularly looking forward to embracing the venue’s exciting new identity.

So how does it feel to be on the cusp of reopening the Kiln Theatre? Have you been able to take it all in?

I can’t! I still can’t quite believe we’ll open yet, but the whole team here have been working day and night, and it’s a miracle that we’ve come so far. I can’t imagine how I’ll feel when it reopens because it’s been 5 years in developing, fundraising, and planning, and 2 years since we’ve closed.

I honestly can’t imagine what it’s going to be like with an audience in. It’ll be either extraordinary or terrifying! It’s like the feeling of doing a first preview of a show, but a hundredfold, because we’ve been gestating about it for so long.

This project began a while ago for the theatre – what prompted its transformation?

A couple of things: when I first started here, the disabled access kept breaking down. It was so old-fashioned, you couldn’t even get the parts to repair it because they didn’t manufacture them anymore! And the other issue was sight lines. Sight lines from lots of central seats weren’t great – they limited our design potential and production values.

When I got the job, I thought “if I’m going to have to keep working this space, I’m going to have to find a way to love it, and make it a much more enjoyable experience for the audience.”

What aspect of the relaunch excites you the most?

The new auditorium, without a doubt. When you launch this kind of project, you want to make it a better space, but without losing its magic. We’ll know when we have an audience, but I feel that it’s a really beautiful space which honours the history of the building – we’ve gone back to the original architecture and the original four walls.

It’s much more comfortable, much more modern, and more flexible in terms of its equipment and its facilities, so it feels like a grown-up version of ourselves. We’ll be able to stage shows in-the-round, and with a traverse, so it gives us a platform to tell our stories better and more powerfully.

When you change the bricks and mortar, it changes you as an organisation – we can’t just be the same as we were before. We have to think differently, we have to more ambitious, we have to be more professionalised. It’s really testing and pushing us in all facets.

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With that in mind, what were you looking to achieve with your first programme as the Kiln Theatre?

With the first season we wanted to make something to be really proud of. To be ambitious, and bold, and to match the ambition and boldness of the building work.

There’s one musical, and then everything else is a world premiere, apart from one British premiere. It’s a whole breadth of different stories, from different parts of the world and from different perspectives. I can genuinely say hand-on-heart that I am really proud of every single piece of writing that’s going on that stage.

We’re also predominantly producing the whole season, which is new for us. We’ve always had a mixed model of receiving work while producing only a third of our own, but this time, all the shows are going to be either produced or co-produced by Kiln Theatre.

Why is Holy Sh!t the perfect show with which to reopen?

It’s a contemporary new play which looks at very pertinent issues about what happens when resources get reduced – and how we turn on each other. It talks about identity, faith and difference, and that’s very pertinent to the area in which we live.

It speaks of now, and begs us to think about we see the Other, how we treat the Other, and – if we aren’t careful – what kind of future we’re giving our children.

How important is it to further the Kiln’s work in the community?

The Creative Learning work is at the heart of our organisation. I got into the theatre through a random experience that my school gave me – not because I was ever taken to the theatre by my family or anything like that.

That’s why it’s really important that we too, as a theatre, try to give that same experience to as many young people as possible, to give them that opportunity to engage in the power of theatre.

What advice would you give anybody hoping to follow you into directing?

Have tenacity. Keep, keep going. Keep improving yourself. It’s a long journey – do not worry if it doesn’t come immediately.

If it’s what you want to do, if it’s your passion, it’s a hard journey – but you’ve just got to keep going, and never worry!

Finally, why should audiences come down to the Kiln this month?

You will have a really powerful experience – both of the building, and of the work on stage.

Holy Sh!t begins previews at the Kiln Theatre tomorrow (5 September). For more information and to book tickets, please visit the venue’s website.

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