We chatted to Ashley Cook, producer of A Single Man at the Park Theatre, which has recently received an investment from Stage One. Stage One is a charity that supports commercial theatre producers across the UK and The Society of London Theatre – the not-for-profit organisation that runs Official London Theatre – has been one of their integral supporters since it began over 40 years ago.
Ashley founded Troupe productions in 2013, aiming to present “the boldest new writing and the bravest rediscoveries”. Having been awarded a Stage One Bursary Award in 2015, Ashley has since produced numerous shows around London, including The Sweet Science of Bruising at Southwark Playhouse and Wilton’s Music Hall; Rasheeda Speaking at Trafalgar Theatre; Dear Brutus by J. M. Barrie and The Cardinal at Southwark Playhouse and The White Carnation at Jermyn Street Theatre.
What was your route into producing?
I trained as an actor originally so have always been passionate about theatre and plays. Eleven years ago I found myself in a long running show in the West End and with a lot of free time during the day so I decided to help a director friend mount two short plays on the Off West End. The buzz I got from the experience was totally unlike the buzz of being on stage, and rewarding in a completely different way. I formed a company (Troupe) and began producing small scale shows at the Finborough Theatre in Earl’s Court. It was a massive learning curve as I did everything, from recruiting the cast and creatives to painting the set, and delivering flyers, and that’s where I cut my teeth really. An established West End producer suggested I should contact Stage One to develop my producing skills further, and so I did. I won the Stage One Bursary Award for New Producers in 2015 and have been lucky to secure further grants and mentorship from them over the years as I’ve grown the company, moving to larger theatres on bigger budgets. Gaining investment for A Single Man from the Stage One Small Scale Commercial Investment Scheme marks another turning point for Troupe, enabling us to break new ground by working in the high profile Park200 space at Park Theatre and to continue to work in larger Off West End spaces on bigger budgets with more opportunity for higher revenue streams. These days I employ a marketing company to deliver the flyers and someone else paints the set!
What made you choose A Single Man?
I was looking to produce an adaptation of a classic novel by a well-known writer, which I had never done before, and happened to read A Single Man on holiday in 2019. I had enjoyed Tom Ford’s film with its stylish costumes and cinematography. Reading Christopher Isherwood’s original novel took it to a whole new level for me and I knew that audiences would be interested in a theatrical version of this achingly sad story. I commissioned Simon Reade to adapt it in early 2020, and it was developed across numerous Zoom meetings (it became my lockdown project!), but I knew the combination of a classic writer, with a famous film in the background and a glamorous 1960s aesthetic had real commercial potential.
Why should people come to see the show?
It’s just a beautiful story, and very very human. For anyone who has ever lost someone and has experienced that cloud of grief in their life it will ring true. But Isherwood’s text is also very witty so be prepared for laughter and tears. Simon Reade’s adaptation brings real theatricality to the piece and makes quite bold choices, which I think audiences will love. And Philip Wilson’s production is super cool. Each period hairstyle, outfit or swinging 60s track will transport you to a different time and place. Sunny 1960s LA comes to Finsbury Park for 6 weeks only!
A Single Man is on at the Park Theatre until 26 November.