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Flavia Fraser-Cannon - theatre producer extraordinaire

Flavia Fraser-Cannon - theatre producer extraordinaire

6 December 2011 Anita Mistry

Anita Mistry catches up with the ever-busy and talented theatre producer Flavia Fraser-Cannon as her new musical Goodbye Barcelona hits the Arcola

Flavia Fraser-Cannon has been working in theatre since 2006; her productions include 'Sweeney Todd: his life, times and execution' (National Tour 2010 and Edinburgh Fringe 2009), 'Gemma Goggin; Get Laid or Die Trying' (Gilded Balloon) and Frank McGuinness' 'The Lady from the Sea' (Arcola). Flavia is also the producer of The Miniaturiusts, a regular feature at the Arcola Theatre. In 2008 Flavia was a awarded a Society Of London Theatre apprenticeship bursary, working in the offices of various west end shows including La Clique and West Side Story. Flavia takes some time out to chat to us in between producing a new musical, and working in her new role at Theatre503.


London Calling: Can you tell us a little about Goodbye Barcelona at the Arcola and how it came into being?
 
Flavia Fraser-Cannon: Goodbye Barcelona is a labour of love by K S Lewkowicz and Judith Johnson, inspired by an article about the International Brigades and wanting to follow their first musical together. The subject seemed so rich whilst also being something relatively few people have covered artistically. I came into the mix much later in the proceedings by knowing Judith through the Miniaturists.

LC: How did you find producing a musical compared with other types of theatre? Are there elements that need a different approach?

FF-C: Each project is hugely different due to the people involved predominantly - theatre is a very human industry. One thing that jumps out immediately is increased numbers of people. You can produce a play with a team of 5 if it's a small cast and everyone throws themselves in. We are a very small musical by most musicals standards but the extra musicians, sound engineers, piano tuners etc really add up. Trying to fit everyone into the programme was a bit of a squeeze! Plus all the additional music calls...
 
LC: Congratulations on your new role as in-house Producer at Theatre503. What are you hoping to bring to the theatre?

FF-C: Thank you! I am VERY excited about working at Theatre503. I've been visiting the theatre since it was The Latchmere and I’ve seen so many exciting new plays and ideas born there, I can't wait to be involved in us finding the next batch! I always have very nerdy intentions towards what I will bring to a project predominantly though, trying to identify business and operational goals and devise how to reach them for example (I’m a sucker for a list or a spreadsheet). We won most welcoming theatre in the “Offie” Off West End Theatre Awards last year (before my time), I’d love to succeed in keeping that title.
 
LC: You also work with Guerilla Science, bringing science to the masses in unusual settings. Can you tell us more about the work you do with them and how you got involved?
 
FF-C: Guerilla science is the wild card in my working life at the moment and I love it. It's a great outlet of creativity for me, to be applying all my production experience to making fun and engaging science experiences in a very hands-on manner (often in a field). Plus I’ve learned SO much science! I joined the team just over a year ago on a Secret Cinema project via dear friend and core member of the group Zoe Cormier and haven't looked back!
 
LC: Did you find the transition from producing a show on stage, to a project involving audience participation, a challenge?
 
FF-C: In my very early days of working in theatre I cut my teeth with a couple of companies who championed theatre as an interactive experience. Theatre events in which we sent people on adventures all across town, interacting in preparation for weeks in advance under code names via email and text messages. The work load of preparing something like that versus a “straight play” is enormous; I was one of many people in a huge machine making these events happen. The differences are many, but so long as you never forgot to make sure your audience are going to have the best overall experience you will stay on the right track.
 
LC: You seem to have your finger in many pies, not to mention your work as a photographer. How do you manage your workloads effectively?
 
FF-C: It's all about making list of what needs to be done and not being afraid to outsource when necessary. I have another lovely freelancer friend who I can periodically call and ask to do a day for me – over the course of the Autumn she freed up some of my time to keep everything moving and I helped her buy the winter coat she had been eyeing up. And the other big rule is making sure you get enough sleep. Pulling an all nighter on a job might seem like the solution at times but being tired and grumpy the next day reduces productivity.
 
LC: With all the cuts in arts funding, what do you think the theatre world needs to do to thrive, survive, and overcome these difficulties? And as a producer, how do you deal with this?
 
FF-C: Well I certainly wish I had an answer for this question. Though it is something to be noted that the shows we are all so proud of doing well in awards both here and the US such as War Horse came from subsidised venues where risks can be taken and excellent work produced. And it is also worth noting that excellent theatre is something we are famous for and brings tourism into the city, generating income in all sorts of sectors. If people want to help just make sure you keep coming to see shows regularly. This is the best way of keeping the industry alive.
 
LC: Lastly, can you tell us a bit about your next project, and your plans for 2012?
 
FF-C: I have a week's research and development at the wonderful Jackson's Lane in February with the equally wonderful Niall Ashdown - whose work I fell totally in love with when I saw Hungarian Bird Festival as a teenager. I'm looking after The Feral Pigeons in Edinburgh this year and will be touring my Edinburgh hit of 2011 Snap.Catch.Slam in the Autumn. And 503 has a certain little play about a certain divisive public figure in January...


Flavia Fraser-Cannon's new show Goodbye Barcelona is on at the Arcola until 23 December.

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