New Theatre: Ending the Age of Stigmas (Huntley McBride Interview)

E: What is the backstory of the company? What kind of work do you do and for who?

H: Okay so, in terms of for who, StageSpace for everyone. 

There’s no kind of requirement to join or for casting. Even if the script says one thing, it doesn’t have to be that way. For example, particularly in terms of gender or race casting. We want to do it in a way that doesn’t ignore that we have a female actor playing a male role, we think what does it mean to have that casting? Rather just for the sake of it.

The company was started in 2020, in the first lockdown, it became a digital theatre company. I don’t know how long to keep it like that, but it allows people to get involved on a platform we can continue and explore with how we want to use it. 

We experimented with how we could use zoom creatively, to make it as if everyone is in a theatre and watching it at the same time without going out of your house. 

Actually, taking the pandemic out of the equation, it made theatre seem more accessible, and there wasn’t really that kind of theatre before, for people that may not be able to afford it or couldn’t physically go to the theatre. I don’t think streamed-theatre will end straight away, it’s something that could continue into the future.

E: I definitely agree there.  Masks and Zoom are the new normal and that can be transcribed to creativity as well. Artists have moved with their art for years, in a way to stay popular. You see that now with streamed theatre like National Theatre live too.

H: What you were saying, if we don’t develop things, that’s the same as everything. If you stay in the same place and do the same thing again and again, nothing creative can come from it. It’s all to do with being in a comfort zone, then there’s not much room for growth. If when creating something, you’re nervous to put out, it can actually lead to more successful projects.

E: Going on from that, what would you say the values of StageSpace are?

H: We actually have a little motto- a space for creativity.

 That space isn’t a physical space, but in terms of what we have done. There aren’t any requirements for anyone to join that space, especially when it comes to race, gender, age.

We are definitely looking at ways of working more inclusively and improving diversity, without just ticking a box. One thing I definitely want to do is work with people with disabilities and open up to more people who feel underrepresented.

We want to do it naturally, without actively looking. It’s just open to everyone and we would love to have you.

If you look back on our last production of The Bacchae- we, by accident, had an almost all female cast, which was brilliant with the play’s feminist themes, like a lot of  Euripides’ writing does, it worked out well, but it just happened. 

E: I suppose it’s like getting rid of that tiny thing at the bottom of castings of ‘this, this and this are encouraged to apply’, which can isolate people, putting them at the bottom, instead of just as the main casting. 

H: Exactly, and it almost led into desperation for things like Drama schools, to get people in to fill a certain requirement. Whereas it works better for everyone, if it happens naturally or people are interested in what you are doing. That’s what I’m trying to do with the recent casting of our production of Medea that’s underway, in terms of gender. Recently my views of gender (identifying as non-binary), have really opened up to the idea that a role must be male or female presenting really don’t matter.

So, I wanted to open up some roles that were listed as non-gender specific or non-binary roles and I had a few messages, that were considering the casting really helpful for people struggling with their own gender identity. The main values of the company are having inclusivity, without the restraints of what people need to be in theatre.

Obviously, there has been a rise in young people working on businesses of their own. What do you think about being a young person in enterprise / the theatre industry today?

H: Ah, that makes me sound like I’m making a ton of money from this.

E: Well, technically you are a business owner.

H: I am a business owner yes.

E: That’s amazing! (Hype man 101)

H- To be honest, in terms of owning a business, I’ve grown up with it. When doing business, I think more young people realise, you don’t always have to be employed by a big corporation to get ahead. Sometimes it’s better, if there’s something you’re passionate about or enjoy doing, put that into your business, instead of just following a crowd. That makes me sound like I’m not like other girls of business (laughs).

E: Oh god

H: Like, I don’t draw attention to my age when I apply to jobs.  I don’t think it’s a  factor into how capable I am in doing a job, in comparison to someone who is older, in experience they may have more, but not in capability. I’ll go into an audition and you’ll see a oh on their faces from my age, but also what I look like. I’m not the only one who feels this, but there’s a judge a book by its cover mentality ingrained in casting. There’s definitely a judgement on you can’t do this, this and this, from the beginning and I want my business to be different to that. I think young people are doing their own projects as they are tired of trying to fit into this too.

E: I think lockdown has spurred creativity and that idea of wanting to do something to earn a little extra money.  I like the idea that the stigma of age is being reduced. Obviously, a lot of our parents are baby boomers and they’ll think because we are young, you don’t have to worry about what you want to do or the news yet. Yes, Yes, we do.

H: Exactly, same with protests, it’s that idea of my dad asking, “why are you getting involved in politics now.” – How were you not when you were my age? There will always be generational differences in everything though and with cultural backgrounds too. That can lead into that stigma in theatre, in how you have to look and act as part of the job. Often, I don’t fit that and I see it on people’s faces when I join the zoom call. I would be really interested to know what someone thought of me before I came in to get that reaction (laughs).

E: With social media, young people becoming more involved in all areas earlier on. You’ve become more knowledgeable about the world, from what you have seen from people with different lives to yours. And if you have access to it, use it and try it. Like you said you wanted a company, because you wanted to try it and you have. That’s what I feel many people over lockdown have been able to do as well, regardless of age, because they are passionate.

H: For theatre, it’s many people’s hobby at the end of the day and they love doing it so much, to make it into a career. Getting rid of that stigma of age and looks, to let people’s passion show. For anyone, if it’s possible to fit it around the other things happening in your life then do it, and that’s what StageSpace was for me.

E: What kind of productions are you thinking of doing- any live performances soon? 

H:  For the moment I think I can see StageSpace staying as online theatre, in a way to give that inclusivity to people as performers but also audience. We can also take away that idea of having to dress up for the theatre too!

 In terms of our theatre- we recently did an adaptation of the Greek play of the Bacchae by  Euripides which Emily was a part of. That included bits of live and pre-recorded footage .

E: Indeed, I was.

H: Following that theme, we are looking to do a more modern, rewritten version of Medea by Euripides too. This is also going hand in hand with another production in the works…. that I’m not going to mention.

E: The thing I did enjoy about the Bacchae was that thing of gender. Not only having an all-female chorus but also having a female Dionysus. I felt it really opened up to anyone who wanted to do it and did it best. As well as that, there wasn’t any focus on gender at all, on the part I played of the Messenger and I had a great time just doing the speech while running through the woods.

{Huntley looks slightly confused, slightly concerned by this.}

E: Finally, where can we find you?

H: For StageSpace – we have a website: www.Stage-space.co.uk

You can also follow us on Instagram @StageSpace_

For me, you can follow me on Instagram @Huntley._