Interview: Collective Theatre’s Martin Derbyshire

Opened in October 2023 , Collective Theatre is North London’s newest stage.

We asked Executive Director Martin Derbyshire to tell us about the venue, its founders, Stockroom Productions, and the first show to open to the public, Influence.

You can visit the theatre’s website to make bookings and find out more about the collective and its aims.

Collective Theatre is described as “North London’s newest stage, a space for collaboration and creativity”. Why is it important for new venues to be created?

It’s vitally important that there are venues to bridge the gap between small and midscale theatre in London.

We’ve had two productions on stage in October, one at our new 100 seat venue and one in a 900 seat venue in Liverpool.

We’re uniquely positioned to provide opportunities to developing artists to help make that essential step-up.

There are very few of these opportunities in London.

The off-West End and fringe scene in London is a very vibrant place to be. How does Collective Theatre fit in with other venues in Islington, Camden, Kentish Town and beyond?

I love the Fringe scene in and around Islington, I’ve lived here for over 10 years now and I’ve been to almost all the venues and worked in a couple of the off-west end ones.

It’s essential that this community thrives to provide opportunities for artists who want to develop their craft.

Collective is somewhere between the Fringe and the off-west end venues and genuinely offers audiences and artists something different.

Tell me a bit about Stockroom Productions and the writers’ room initiative. How can writers get involved in this?

We always welcome writers letting us know about their work, it’s imperative for us to keep up to date with the interesting writers out there and to try to discover new talent.

When a commission or a project comes up, we then try to place the right writers on the correct projects and support them through the process.

With the loss of the Actors Centre in central London, it is good to see your Collective Acting Studio given a home in N7, especially focusing on underrepresented groups. Can you say a bit more about your plans to “amplify fresh new voices”?

It’s harder than ever for people to break into writing for stage, especially at the midscale and on mainstages around the country.

Our main focus is on socio-economic background as we feel that it is truly intersectional when you focus on a lack of wealth and opportunity and not just the traditional British white working class.

We want to help support people with what little resources we have and not have the same voices on stage all the time.

It’s a slow and difficult process that needs a lot more funding than it is currently getting. Without some serious financial intervention, it will become harder each year, but we’ll keep trying.

Your opening production is Influence, about magic and the power of perception. What should audiences expect from the show?

It’s a great night’s entertainment.

It’s perhaps not as political as a lot of the work we have traditionally produced or the work we are currently developing, but it’s got a fantastic story with plenty of twists and turns and it’s really got audiences talking.

It’s a magical show with a fantastic star in Kit Young, people don’t go away disappointed!

The Hornsey Road Baths & Laundry is such an iconic space, with a lot of history behind it. Have you been able to incorporate any of that into Collective Theatre as you occupy the building?

You can’t help but incorporate it in such a wonderful building. I’d been aware of the building since I moved to London because of the iconic sign on the side.

I’d been living around the corner for 8 years before I stepped inside and I was blown away to discover there was a theatre inside with two great spaces.

We’ve refurbished it with a nod to the past in the bar and we’re looking at how we can incorporate some of the unused features and we’d love to restore the sign to it’s former glory.

We’re also just starting to learn some of the fascinating stories associated with the building that could well be inspiration for work on stage in the coming years.

What do you think?

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.