Andrew Maddock is bringing a premiere to open Scott Ellis’ first season at TheatreN16. A writer, producer, teacher and performer, his work draws on real-life experience. Daniel Perks talks to him about Olympilads:
Theatre makers and performers don’t necessarily enter the industry in a traditional way. I for example studied Chemistry at university and wasn’t involved in theatre at all until I came to London and started seeing productions. Writer and producer Andrew Maddock is similarly alternative in his background – he came into theatre via access coursess at 25. Now he is an award-winning writer and producer – his latest work, Olympilads, opens Scott Ellis‘ first season as Artistic Director of TheatreN16.
I caught up with him ahead of the opening to chat about this latest project:
Olympilads, opening at Theatre N16 on 8 August. How are you feeling?
Andy: Nervous. We recently had a massive rewrite, a change of heart – the show was written in 2012 and has been developed since then. It’s a good change to have though.
I’m excited by the cast – I used to work in social inclusion, teaching drama to young offenders. There’s a guy, Rhys Yates, that I worked with – he graduated from Rose Bruford last year and is luckily available. I had the idea in my head of his character, but then heard his voice and knew it was the perfect fit. He’s doing a lot of TV & Film, but has made time to this, which I’m really excited about. The part is great for him too, a young guy who has reformed and turned his life around, trying to move on.
Olympilads is about the legacy of the Olympics – I wrote it during 2012 with a cynical hat on. There was a lot of talk about how great things were going to be for everyone after it all finished. It’s interesting to see the piece five years after nothing has really changed.
We’re not typical theatre people, so it’s great to know that people are out there giving it a go.
Do you ever feel pressure as a writer to create something better than your previous work?
Andy: It never gets easier – this is worse. I don’t want it to happen, but I am always expecting the next production to get shit across the board. All my works so far have been unanimously well received. I’ve always thought that my next show would be the one people would shit on…
I’m trying to write stuff that non-theatre people would come to watch and get a kick out of. I think that Olympilads is the most successful one like this, with the casting and the message. But that’s just my opinion!
Take me back to how you got into theatre.
Andy: I was about 25 when I came into acting. I was at The Roundhouse, or a bar next to it, and met a guy called Jim Pope. He’s an amazing drama tutor and told me about these three workshops he was running. I thought I’d give it a go and ended up from there doing an Access to Higher Education course with National Youth Theatre, which is completely free. Through that, people noticed that I was writing stuff – I was interested in it but it never felt I was at home with it. A teacher told me to keep writing, which I assumed meant, “you’re shit at acting”.
I set myself a target of a 10-minute play. One of the first shows I saw was Luke Barnes‘ Chapel Street – two monologues that blew my mind. I decided then that I wanted to do a monologue and I wanted it to be on at the Old Red Lion Theatre. So, I gave myself a year to get the short play on, put it in an underground tunnel near the Union Theatre and invited all my mates. No-one understood it but loved it, it gave me a bit of a boost.
But I did miss acting, so I called up the Etcetera Theatre and asked to put something on for a night – I had an idea for a show called Junkie, a 50-minute monologue. Stewart Pringle had just taken over the Old Red Lion Theatre, so we had a conversation afterwards. He needed something more than a 50-minute monologue, so I pitched another show that I hadn’t written yet. It ended up being two monologues about me that I called The Me Plays.
During the run of that I met Niall, we got drunk and decided to work together. I’m a big believer in a collaborator, a team to work with. This is the first play where we are working with actors we haven’t worked with before. We aim to put on plays that are quality and believe that if something is good, people will come to see it.
TheatreN16, this is my Edinburgh 2017.
Will you keep writing after Olympilads or focus on producing?
We put Waiting for Charlie on for a couple of nights at The Hope Theatre, after they saw some R&D in January. They sent me the contract through before I’d even written it! We’re looking to get that into The Vaults Festival with Jamie Eastlake as a producer – it’d do really well in a late-night slot there. It’s about a guy relaxing after a cocaine addiction.
Andy has a refreshing likeability, a down to earth guy that came into theatre through a non-traditional route. Rhys Yates, one of the Olympilad actors, also pops in to say hello and gives off exactly the same vibe:
Rhys: I can’t wait for this show, I’ve known Andy for a while since National Youth Theatre. It’s quite complimentary that he wanted to work with me as well – he’s still pestering me for roles.
Andy: I feel blessed to have him on board. I worked with him on a course with National Youth Theatre. I’m already thinking about the next show I can work with him on – Waiting for Charlie, I wrote for myself but there’s exciting running around my head for Rhys. I next want to do film next, it’s a medium that people can’t avoid.
Do you miss teaching?
Andy: Really badly. I set up a company called Generation Arts with a couple of other teachers at National Youth Theatre that filled a gap in access courses – the more like that the merrier. It’s not about the quality at the end, it’s about the journey and the achievement. Rhys, for example, went through that journey ad then got into Rose Bruford and is smashing it now as a professional.
Rhys: It was pretty life-changing, doing that course. It’s people like Andy that make it easier to transition away from the wrong path. Drama was the best thing to happened to me. So, I guess I had to do this show, as a payback to Andy!
Who or what are your inspirations?
Andy: The work that I was doing with Generation Arts, and guys like Rhys who are trying to break the rules. We’re not typical theatre people, so it’s great to know that people are out there giving it a go.
Rhys: Two people – a guy that I first worked with made me see that acting was even an option. He steered me in the right direction and away from trouble when I was younger. The other is my pops, he showed me that I was wasting my potential before. It pushed me into acting – I enjoy it so it doesn’t feel like work.