Intermission Interviews | Rosemary Hill


This week, we’re talking to rosemary hill, a northampton based director, producer, writer and actor

Rosemary as Mrs Alving in “Ghosts”
Photo: Simon Raynor

Tell us a bit about what you do in theatre

I run two theatre companies – the professional The Play’s The Thing Theatre Company where we ensure everyone is paid Equity rates. We are lucky enough to have secured Arts Council funding four times for company projects though even without funding we ensure everyone is paid equity (sometimes out of our own box office to ensure we give people opportunities).

I also run the inclusive community company Pepper’s Ghost Theatre Company. This company is open to everyone and we work with a professional production team.

What does your job entail, and what is your favourite part of your job?

My jobs entail many things. As a producer I raise the money to put on shows, write contracts and make sure everyone is paid – and I proudly always aim to pay people quickly.

As a director I am the one looking after the creative content. I have a creative team in place such as set and costume designers, lighting  and sound designers. Many have also worked with me on films and BBC TV programmes so we have a long history of working together. I do like to work collaboratively with actors and love to give them the freedom to explore. I have never been a director who tells them exactly what to do as I think that kills creativity.

As an actor I enjoy working on everything – theatre, TV, film, radio, etc. I guess my favourite part of the job is working with a supportive, collaborative team and enjoying how everything builds to the final product. I love being in the rehearsal room and exploring.

Which productions have you most enjoyed working on?

I enjoy working on many shows, but I think one of my best  professional shows was “Abigail’s Party” by Mike Leigh. We had a stellar cast  and creative team and it was just an absolute joy. “Frozen” by Bryony Lavery was also an incredible production to work on. There are just so many!

For the inclusive company, I think “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” was magical and done in quite an unusual way. People still come up to me and talk about it and it was in 2011! As an actor I loved playing Mrs Alving in “Ghosts” by Henrik Ibsen. This was a professional production and was a challenging role that took me time to get to grips with, but it was so satisfying. I learned so much about myself as an actor.

I am also so proud of the festival “Taking The Stage” last year. It was our biggest project to date. I am proud to say we have secured ACE emergency funding to further develop one of the plays but in a new and novel way so expect a film, a podcast, an illustrated comic book version and a twine! All very exciting. We are proud to be giving lots of local people paid work.

Backstage at “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”

If you could play any role OR direct/produce anY play, what would it be?

Plays I would like to direct and produce are many! I enjoy working on new work and I have several scripts I am working on at the moment. I’ve been using much of my time to read loads of plays. I enjoy Shakespeare and may well do a Shakespeare festival when we can finally work in venues. This may well be outdoors though. I am also planning another “Taking The Stage” for 2021. One play I would like to be in is “Whose Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” – I would love to play Martha.

Do you a memorable story about theatre you can share with us?

Many memorably funny stories, but here is one – I used to work in Gartree Prison in Leicester teaching drama. I was directing some short pieces with the prisoners who were keen students! It’s a category A prison so everyone in my class had committed serious crimes – murder, manslaughter, gangland protection rackets etc. 

One day an East End gangster spoke is his broad London accent, “Here – directing a play is a bit like doing a job isn’t it?”. I said “How do you mean”? He said “Well, you ‘av to be good at organising, everyone ‘as their exits and entrances and you ‘av to make sure it goes smoothly. You ‘av to like co-ordinate everything. Just like I do with a bank job”.  Well, I said  “Yes, I guess so. You have some transferable skills!”  He then went on to write a very funny farce play which won an award.

He is now a theatre practitioner.

What’s the best thing you’ve seen on stage?

So, so  many years ago I went to see a promenade performance of “The Crucible” in a gym in Corby. Alun Armstrong was playing John Proctor. I was blown away by it and so were my students who were studying it at the time. Proctor’s speech “Leave me my name” has always had such an effect on me, but at one point Armstrong came close to me and seemed to be pleading with me to help him. It was electrifying.

Then another was going to see my friend Bryony Lavery’s “Frozen” at The National. It was the first time she had had a play produced there. She is the most amazing writer and it was not before time that she had a play performed there. Again it was electrifying. You could have heard a pin drop. Another was seeing “Top Girls” by Caryl Churchill in the 80’s at the Haymarket. It was a new play then and so exciting and so politically relevant. It had a huge effect on me.

What do you love about your local theatre community?

I love that there is such a mixture of things going on in Northampton both professionally and in amateur theatre. I love also that there is such a lovely community of people all sharing their love of theatre.

What have you been doing theatrically during lockdown?

During lockdown I have been doing loads of reading, thinking, reflecting and planning. Where do I go next with both companies? I have been working on a new exciting business plan and of course a grant application to ACE which was successful. Watch out for our new project “Invisible – Visible”!

I am also a trained psychotherapeutic counsellor so I have been doing lots of counselling by telephone or video link. I volunteer my time for various agencies like Mind and YiS (Youth Counselling). I want to do my bit to help people through this crisis. For my own mental health, I make sure I go on lots of walks and I am in touch with nature – my garden has given me much joy. I have had some very “down” moments during this time but I find a good long walk really helps.

In these unusual times, who would you like to encourage people to support with a donation if they’re able?

My charity would be Wellingborough Mind. An amazing and supportive team and they do so much with limited resources – I am so proud to work for them. Donate here.

Thank you Rosemary for joining us! Keep an eye out for another edition next week.

Intermission Interviews are the work of Becki Cockcroft and Matthew Neuenhaus. Becki is Marketing & Press Assistant at Northampton’s Royal & Derngate theatres, and a freelance marketeer, designer and photographer, and Matt is Marketing Officer for Birmingham Hippodrome.