Arts blog: Can we have Vicky Featherstone back?

Vicky Featherstone. Picture: Robert Perry
Vicky Featherstone. Picture: Robert Perry
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“WHERE did this crazy plan come from?” asks an arts feature in the London Evening Standard this week, referring to Open Court, Vicky Featherstone’s plan to let 90 writers “occupy” the Royal Court in London this summer.

Quirkier events on offer include the chance to choose a playwright from a tombola and have them read a play to you over a bacon sandwich, and plays hidden around the building that you can listen to on headphones – an experience that Featherstone, the theatre’s new artistic director, compares to a silent disco. There will be late night events, open mic events, and a whole host of shows made quickly and spontaneously. It all sounds inclusive, innovative, energising and, above all, fun.

Open Court seems to have made quite an impression, but it’ll all look very familiar to theatre-goers in Scotland. Until recently Featherstone was, of course, artistic director of the National Theatre of Scotland, and Open Court brings back memories of both her Five Minute Theatre project – 24 hours of open access live performances streamed on the internet, involving amateur as well as professional writers – and Home, the very first show she staged for the NTS.

Like Open Court, Home went against a lot of people’s expectations. Instead of setting out her stall with a single, prestigious new play with a famous name in the lead role, Featherstone launched the NTS with ten separate, simultaneous events all over Scotland, including as many people as she could in the launch of this new organisation – and making a lot of friends in the process.

“Vicky offers ‘dares’ to artists and organisations,” Carrie Cracknell, Featherstone’s associate director, tells the Evening Standard, “but then she supports them to achieve those projects.” Also quoted in the piece is John Tiffany, director of the NTS’s biggest hit, Black Watch, who is heading south to join Featherstone as soon as he’s finished work on Let The Right One In. London’s gain is Scotland’s loss