Edward Max is the Artistic Director of one of the only professionally paid weekly rep companies in the UK. On the eve of its seventy second season, Frinton opened its box office to tickets sales of three and a half thousand on the first day last week. Here Ed talks about what keeps the summer season by the sea going.
Alright Edward? Are you excited about the new season?
Excited…scared. Apprehensive about whether people will come and see the new stuff, but also, with ‘Tomfoolery’, we’re taking it on a small tour, and that’s a real step off the edge of the cliff.
I’ve heard this is Frinton’s 72nd year; what’s kept it going for so long?
There’s been 72 seasons; I think it started in 1937. There was of course a break for the war. It was started by TP Hoar, who was a metallurgist and academic from Cambridge. Jack Watling took it over in ’74 and it was too expensive. Having a think about it in the bar of the much lamented, no longer existing Glencoe Hotel, somebody said, ‘Well, could we have a friend’s organisation to help support it?’ Jack slammed a pound note down on the bar and said, ‘I’m your first member.’ And so The Friends were formed; and they are actually, generally, inestimably valuable.
I believe you’re opening with Yasmin Reza’s ‘Art’ – how are you feeling about directing it in a week?
It is a challenge, but then the good thing is that this year, and every year really, I’ve got a pretty good mixture of people who are new and people who have done it before. I’ve also learnt that there’s a certain amount of skill in directing it, in that you do have to have some fixed ideas, but you do need to be responsive to what your cast come up with. In most jobs, once you’ve done the casting, they say, you’ve done eighty per cent of the work. And the season would never have become what it is without the amazing procession of technical staff that have worked here over those years; their turnaround is even more pressured than that of the actors.
What do you look for when you’re casting people?
I look for people who really make it happen, and I look for a certain facility with text. I like performances to be physically detailed and all the rest of that, but it’s a pretty wordy tradition the British tradition, and getting on top of the words, both in a technical sense and in an imaginative and creative sense is very important. You get some of it from the audition pieces that they do, but then if you read, you can really tell the people who are willing to take risks with what they have in front of them.
For the last 4 years you’ve had new writing at Frinton; can you tell us a weeny bit about this year’s offering?
It’s very hard to find good plays in those genres of supernatural or psychological thrillers, or any kind of thriller, because so much of what is out there is badly written. And people just haven’t wanted to go and see thrillers. It’s kind of revitalised in the West End now because stars are interested, and it’s becoming popular again; there’s a truly retro glamour about them.
Yes, but you still haven’t told me about this year’s offering…
It’s coming, it’s coming! I commissioned Patrick Marlowe to write a beach hut comedy called ‘End of the Line’, which we did last year, which was very successful. And this year, he’d always talked about doing a show with Abigail Anderson, who he knows well, and Abigail is going to be directing her first Frinton shown and she’s developing a script with him.
How do you see the future of Frinton?
[I laugh quite a lot.]
It’s like anything; sometimes you can’t see the light at the end of the tunnel! Next year is going to be my tenth anniversary year. I’m always looking for another place to take the shows. It always upsets me that we do such good work – lots of people from the profession have come to see it over the years and they’ve said, ‘It’s amazing what you can do with a week.’ It’s not very good for the mental stability of anyone helping producing the work, but audiences love it.
How do you get to Frinton?
You get onto the A12 and don’t stop until it runs out. Or you get on the train at Liverpool Street.
How many plays do you read in a year?
I would reckon for Frinton I read about sixty plays a year.
What do you do to relax?
I like to play traditional Irish music. I read science fiction. I have three children; they help me relax. I have a wife, she helps me relax. I love to cook. I love to make things. I think that’s the thing in the end- when I’m playing music I’m making something; when I’m cooking, or preparing food, I’m making something. I had this enormously academic education, which was great, but I don’t feel that it really taught me to make anything, and sometimes I wonder whether I wouldn’t have been better off in a technical college.
If you somehow managed to get hold of Aladdin’s lamp, what would your 3 wishes be?
I would wish for….
[Long pause, then a very big sigh.]
Well there are so many things one could wish for. If I was being selfish I would wish for a four hundred seat flexible theatre made with sustainable materials in a sustainable manner; enough money to run a permanent theatre company without having to worry if anybody turns up or not and a very large kitchen attached.
That sounds pretty selfless…
Yes, but I’d be running it all. I have only one wish really, which is world peace and harmony. World peace and harmony three times over.
The Good Review would like to say a big thank you to Edward Max from Frinton Summer Theatre for giving up his time to answer our questions and we wish him and everyone involved all the best with this season which includes The Rats by Agatha Christie, Round and Round the Garden by Alan Aykbourn and the ever popular Charlie’s Aunt by Brandon Thomas. Runs 10th July – 25th August.
For full details go to: http://www.frinton.org/frinton-summer-theatre.php
Box office: 07905 589792