Scott Ramsey chief executive of the NTR talks about new initiatives and new productions. Words by Emma Beatty.
Did you brave the rain at Victorious on the last day? When it poured down and blew a gale? If so, you might have taken refuge in the New Theatre Royal tent in the kids’ arena. Some 2000 people ducked in to dodge the cold. Inside, they found a new mini world full of colour and drama as Scott Ramsay, Chief Executive, of the NTR and his crew interacted with soaking-wet festival crowds. He and staff dressed in Peter Pan costumes gave impromptu improvs, offered dressing up and face painting. Maybe you spotted the brave man in the pirate costume wandering around to promote the theatre’s new Christmas show? Every time he bowed, water gushed out of his tricorn hat.
Being out and about is what Scott Ramsay loves to do to as he explained when we chatted about the new season coming up at the theatre. Above all, he says, he wants to bring theatre out to people as much as he can. Using storytelling to connect with an audience is what theatre is, he says, whether that be on stage, out at a festival, or via a podcast. Such as this summer’s outdoor performance of The Tempest in Gatcombe Park, Copnor. Or the performances of User Not Found planned for Canvas Coffee at Portsmouth & Southsea Station on 27 October.
There’s also a free family-friendly audio story to download from the NTR website from 22 December onwards. The new podcast, written by Scott himself, is set in Portsmouth and weaves a fantastical yarn through the
city’s landmarks, following the adventures of a Lost Dragon and a girl called Emily (played by Lucy Morris, who plays Phoebe Aldridge in Radio 4’s The Archers, and is also a student at the University of Portsmouth). It’s got music and songs written by BBC composer Neil Brand, best known as the presenter of the Sound of Cinema and Sound of Musicals series.
Scott has also written the NTR’s big Christmas show, Peter Pan, which opens on 13 December and runs until New Year’s Eve. It’s his second big home-produced musical extravaganza, after last year’s Beauty & the Beast. The show’s all being made here in the city, and alongside the professional cast, there’s a local young ensemble, including Jamie Young and Lewis Heaysman from the local D/deaf club, who play two of the Lost Boys. Scott says it’s important for audiences to see themselves reflected onstage, which means a 50/50 gender balance and diversity onstage.
The music itself is made up of musical classics, some well-known, some now forgotten, such as ‘Three Mermaids’, a comical tour de force, as three mermaids fly around the stage on wires. Peter himself is played by Samuel Bailey, with NTR favourite Tim Lucas returning as the be-wigged baddie Captain Hook. Apparently, the Guildhall Ice Rink is coming back this year (it’s funded by the new Hilton hotel currently under construction at the end of Commercial Road, to drum up a buzz in a city centre). Looks like it might be quite a magical atmosphere on Guildhall Walk come this December.
Scott’s also got a new initiative where you can pay as much as you can afford for a ticket after you’ve seen a show. The Pay What You Can season consists of four productions that Scott has selected for quality and variety. “One reason that people are put off going to the theatre is that they don’t want to waste money on a show that they don’t know anything about. So with this system, no-one pays upfront. You just book a free ticket online, or at the box office, and pay whatever you want on the way out. If you love it, you can pay a bit more, if you hate it, or can’t afford anything – don’t pay.”
Finally, Scott wants to shout out to all Under-25s to urge them to make use of the huge discounts for them. If you’re under 25, you pay only £10. Just sign up to the initiative via the Box Office or website.
Highlight’s coming up
Tom Dale’s I Infinite (9 Oct), part-dance, part-video-installation where audiences roam freely amid the performers.
The Case of the Frightened Lady (29 Oct-3 Nov), old school murder mystery starring EastEnders John Partridge, and Deborah Grant (Not Going Out & Bergerac).
Sherlock Holmes: The Sign of Four (15-17 Nov), part of the new Conan Doyle exhibition at Portsmouth Museum based on the novel penned by Doyle while he lived in Bush Villas in Southsea.
Keep the Home Fires Burning (4 Nov), wartime musical featuring a professional cast and a locally recruited over 50s choir, performing the songs of the Great War.
Pic credit: Scott Ramsay. Photo: Peter Langdown