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Interview: Claire Bibby of Baroque Theatre Company

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We caught up with Baroque Theatre Company founder Claire Bibby about the company’s Spring/Summer national tour, which comes to The Roses on Sunday 7 May. Claire is also BTC producer and is appearing in all three plays.

“Times are changing for women in the industry, finally.” 

What made you create Baroque Theatre Company?
As a professional actor with a passion for creating exciting, entertaining theatre for everyone and having past experience for many years in the commercial sector, running different businesses, I wanted to combine both skill sets and make paid opportunities for myself and fellow creatives.
It’s a “full on” job as I produce the tours and act in them but I love what I do. It’s been a rewarding gamble as all the hard work has paid off and has led to the Company growing year on year - we now take at least two productions on national tour annually. Like every great enterprise it is always unlikely that success is down to one person. Without the artistic expertise and vision of our Director Adam Morley, the guidance, mentoring and operational wisdom from Sponsor Julian Bibby and the unwavering support of my partner Kevin Arkesden, Baroque would not have achieved the level of success it has had and continues to.

Is BTC unique?
There are other excellent touring theatre companies in the UK but I like to think that the care we take of our Company members and the range of different spaces we take our theatre to may be unrivalled. We pride ourselves on honesty and sustainability in the arts. We always cut our cloth accordingly and have never relied on public funds.

What sort of person is going to love this show?
The humour within the three shows is very much of classic TV sitcom humour, so anyone who loves Fawlty Towers, Vicar of Dibley and the like will love this. It’s a trio of hilarious plays so it’s excellent for a fun filled afternoon or evening out at the theatre. With all the depressing stories in the news of late, what better than a comedy tonic! 

What’s challenging about bringing this script to life?
The scripts are extremely well written and the challenge as with any production is to do the text justice, which our Director Adam does brilliantly. Comedy is one of his favourite genres (mine too!) and from past experience of working with him, every comical nuance will be brought off the page with a sprinkle of surprising twists. The Grimley plays in particular have been performed a lot by Amateur Dramatic Societies so with the “BTC” treatment I am confident that the shows will be portrayed in a refreshing new way.

Why did you want to be involved in this production?
I love the Little Grimley plays and have performed them before to great feedback from reviewers and audience members alike. Added to which we (and not for the first time) have gender blind casting for this production. Instead of casting 2 x females and 2 x males as depicted in the scripts we have an all-female cast.

Who should not come see this show?
It’s not really suitable for young children, there’s no swearing or adult language it's just that we don't think that youngsters would understand the humour as much as mum and dad. Age suggestion/guide 12+

What will the audience be thinking about in the car as they drive home after this show?
They will still be laughing and wondering if they’ve got time to see it again at another venue. A great night out. Great value for money.

How is this production bringing something new to this story?
The dynamics will be different with an all-female cast and with such a strong Company we hope that our love of these hilarious scripts will come blazing through. The characters are great and we can’t wait to bring them to life. The middle play “A Jolly Sinister Jape” is usually a stand-alone piece, but we at BTC are intertwining the play with the Grimleys which will be new!

What’s going to surprise people about this show?
The pace, energy and feel good factor. Zany, colourful characters trying to make the failing Little Grimley Dramatic Society survive with minimal talent and as always trying to get one up on the competitive Lively Ladies Over 50’s Club.  It’s like Full Monty with a healthy helping of French and Saunders!

Call someone out by name: who must come see this production?
“David Hunt”!!! He was my teacher at Rose Bruford College where I did my drama training. I’m sure I wouldn’t be doing what I’m doing if it wasn’t for his passion for theatre and inspirational tutoring.

Who has the best costume?
Our director Adam. He insists on wearing the “Last Panto in Little Grimley” horse costume in rehearsals. A bit worrying really.

Who in the show is most like their character?
I think I’m most like my character Georgie – she is the chairwoman of the society and it’s her job to rally the troops, compromise, come up with money making schemes, deal with difficult demanding personalities and egos, much like being a producer in a regional touring theatre company! 

Who’s the least?
Patricia Derrick who plays Joyce the dithering but endearing bookkeeper with a passion for singing (badly). I can safely say that if she was like her character in real life I wouldn’t be sharing a room with her on tour.

Outside of acting do you have any interesting hobbies?
In a parallel universe my hobbies would include nude ice skating, climbing the Long Mynd in Shropshire weekly (clothed), parachuting and writing horror thrillers.

It’s a massive tour. How do you organise the travel and how many miles will you be doing?
The tour venues are booked a year in advance and I have planned it to keep the logistics as straight forward as possible. We keep tour vehicles to a minimum with cast and crew car-sharing. I have the honour of driving the Company van, usually accompanied by a cast member or two! For this tour it will be in the region of 4857 miles travelled.

It’s a busy schedule. How do you keep going?
Looking after our health, eating well, enough sleep and lots of laughter, a sense of humour is so important on tour. Then there is also copious amounts of coffee…..

What’s it like being in an all-female cast?
It’s amazing. I’ve worked with two of the cast before so I know what brilliant actors they are and I’m sure the new member will also be lovely to have on board. It’ll be a solid team and it is special to take a mixed gender script and shake things up to revitalise the work. For many plays there is no reason why casting shouldn’t be gender blind. Times are changing for women in the industry, finally.

Book tickets to BTC's Comedy Triple Bill on Sunday 7 May here

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