What is Shakespeare in the Squares? How did the idea come about?
Sue Fletcher: An open-air touring company that takes a Shakespeare play to London garden squares for one night only during June and July. My co-producer and I are lucky enough to live near two lovely gardens—Leinster Square and Queen’s Park—and are both passionate theatregoers so it seemed a natural way to combine the two.
Martin Neild: Also we have both been publishers all our professional lives, where you work with authors to create the best possible books and bring them to the widest possible audience. We wanted to see if we could transfer those skills to the theatre.
Where is your favourite place in the world?
Sue: A seat in the stalls five minutes before curtain-up.
Martin: Dinner with friends and an animated discussion following a brilliant performance in one of London’s unique theatres.
How would you spend a perfect weekend?
Martin: Brunch at our local cafe (Caffe Connect in Hereford Road). A couple of hours browsing in the extraordinary Lutyens and Rubinstein independent bookshop in Kensington Park Road. An Ottolenghi picnic followed by a magical opera in the beautiful setting of Holland Park. A Sunday morning walk in Kensington Gardens (particularly when the sunken garden is in full bloom), followed by a proper English roast Sunday lunch at home with friends and family and a date with the latest water cooler television series on Sunday night.
Sue: Antique-hunting down Portobello Road with a flat white at Coffee Plant; pick up a Mr Toast loaf from Fabrique; lunch at Snaps & Rye. Evening at the Bush Theatre. Sunday papers in bed then leisurely lunch at home with friends and family.
Do you have a favourite Shakespeare play, and if so, why?
Sue: This year it is Romeo and Juliet, obviously! Because it is full of youthful exuberance and humour and only becomes tragic towards the end.
Martin: Like Sue, I am totally immersed in and in love with Romeo and Juliet at the moment .
How much creative input do you have in the productions? What is your role in the company?
Sue: I am one of the two Executive Producers with Martin, and together we choose the Director and crew and then advise/support them wherever necessary throughout the audition and rehearsal process through the performances.
Where do you seek inspiration?
Martin: From the deeds and creativity of extraordinary people
Sue: I am inspired by the fantastically varied and exciting actual and cultural landscape of London.
How long does it take to prepare a performance, from choosing the play, to casting, to the final show?
Sue: We start thinking about the next year’s production once we have recovered from the current year! So it is probably about a nine-month cycle but with some times much more frantic than others.
Where do you live and why?
Martin: Leinster Square, W2. Because it is central London (only three stops to the West End via three different tube lines); overlooks a magnificent secret garden; for its multiculturalism and the fact that it has great restaurants specialising in more than 15 different ethnic cuisines within a 200 metre radius.
Sue: Queen’s Park, NW6 because it is beautiful and well-served by transport links and has a real community feel.
Where is your favourite place to eat in west London?
Sue: The Colbert if I am at the Royal Court, or the Dock Kitchen if I want somewhere good within walking distance.
Martin: Hereford Road Restaurant, 3 Hereford Road W2, which succeeds brilliantly in being a genuine neighbourhood restaurant that provides really excellent food using the best seasonal British produce.
Do you have a favourite watering hole?
Sue: My own garden! With friends and several bottles of rose.
Martin: The gardens in Leinster Square on a summer evening.
How does Shakespeare in the Squares differ from other Shakespeare performances?
Sue: Locating it in London’s loveliest garden squares, some of them not usually open to the public, and choosing our cast and crew from theatre practitioners at the start of their careers.
Martin: We also try to create a real community event involving local residents, businesses and restaurants. For example, in Leinster Square, Domus Nova, our local estate agent, will be providing cocktails and the wonderful Durbar Indian restaurant will have a stall giving away Indian snack packs. The green room will be provided by the Victoria League hostel for Commonwealth students and toilet facilities for the audience and a meal for the cast by Hereford Road restaurant.
If money were no object, what would you most like to do?
Sue: This—but with no budgetary constraints!
Martin: Provide as many showcases as possible for the huge number of extraordinarily talented actors that we have in this country for whom getting work is a constant struggle.
What is the most trouble you’ve got yourself into and how did this come about?
Martin: Nothing that a wannabe respectable producer should reveal…
Sue: Can’t possibly reveal in case my kids are reading this!
Do you have a secret hang out?
Sue: The spa at the Beaumont Hotel for a massage followed by lunch at the Colony Grill.
Martin: Not since the demise of the wonderful Angelo’s restaurant and cocktail bar in Monmouth Road, which would stay open all night and where you could gain entry if you knew the right knock and meet criminal bosses, film stars and politicians…
What is your most treasured possession?
Martin: A programme for a performance of Twelfth Night in Stratford in 1971 signed by Judi Dench, who played Viola. We are so thrilled that this year she agreed to become our Patron.
Sue: A Hamlet playtext from the NT production of 2010 signed by the cast and annotated by Rory Kinnear.
Any plans for the future? World domination?
Sue: Taking Shakespeare in the Squares global—Times, Tiananmen, St Mark’s, Red Squares, here we come.
Martin: Shakespeare on the roofs? Shakespeare on the water? Shakespeare in the piazzas? We’ll take Shakespeare anywhere and everywhere we can.