Jennifer Sutherland is co-founder of the multi-award winning Scamp Theatre, who are best-known for their highly successful and hugely popular adaptations of children’s literature. The newly-launched Freckle Productions will continue to focus on productions for children, young people and families, but with a broader output of work: as well as stage adaptations, there will be original and emerging tales, ancient stories, and even some non-fiction, with shows exploring science and the environment. Jennifer chatted to us about the exciting new venture, her dream collaborations, her career as a producer and more…
Congratulations on the launch of Freckle Productions! What is in store for the company this year?
We are busy preparing to get Tiddler & Other Terrific Tales ready for its run at the Leicester Square Theatre, and starting to gear up Stick Man for a nice long run on the road in the UK, finishing with Christmas at Birmingham Symphony Hall. Behind the scenes though we are starting development on four really exciting new productions and projects that will appear through 2018, so watch this space!
You are co-founder of the hugely successful Scamp Theatre, why did you want to create another company?
Scamp has been really good to me but moving forward I want to explore new forms and new projects that mean Freckle will be developed specifically to suit this new work – while also keeping the Scamp co-productions like Tiddler and Stick Man busy and productive.
What have you learned from working with Scamp that you will apply to the new company? And what will be different about Freckle Productions?
Never be afraid of trusting your instincts; working with Scamp taught me from very early on that it’s easy to lose touch with your gut if you don’t keep an eye on things. You have to be able to respond to the work you make, not only as a producer with your head but with your heart and soul, which is what your audience bring to the thing on any given moment.
Freckle will be different to Scamp essentially in that we will be aiming to produce a slightly broader range of work, with a slightly broader audience. I want our audiences to be able to look on the stage at our shows, and see themselves up there. That’s really important. We will be working with different forms of theatre too – I don’t want to say too much yet but there are some amazing things in the pipeline that I hope lots of people, big and small, will enjoy.
You have enjoyed a very fruitful relationship with Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler, staging popular adaptions of their picturebooks, and it’s great that this will continue with Freckle Productions. Who else would you like to work with? Any dream collaborations?
Well first let me say that the Julia and Axel collaborations will continue I hope; watch Freckle’s website for news on a new project in that very area, in the coming months. In terms of collaborating with others, I like the idea of getting specialist people out of their normal areas of work, and realising that theatre for young people is just theatre, with all that that implies. So I think it’s time that Simon McBurney did a show for young people that maintained that spell-binding intellectual aesthetic, I’d like to see Johnny Flynn write a folk cycle of English songs based around English folk tales that dug down into the real soil of this country; and I would like to get people who have come to this country from elsewhere to tell us the stories of their childhood and their journeys….and I want to see the LGBT+ community become more involved in young people’s theatre. Their experience is invaluable and key to young people growing up healthy and happy and understanding themselves better.
What led you to become a producer, and to your focus on theatre for young audiences?
All anyone wants to do with any kind of art or theatre or story-telling is understand themselves and the world around them better. Young audiences are just a way of opening that earlier. Once the door is open, you’d be surprised what you can get through it!
Do you have any tips for producers who would like to focus on children’s theatre?
It’s no different from producing any sort of theatre. It’s about the quality of the relationships you have, the quality of the stories you tell, and the tenacity and faith you have in telling them. The rest is just noise.
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