A Review of 2017
Artistic Director and co-founder, Marcus Bazley, looks back on “a seminal year for Cyphers.”
This past year feels like it has been quite a seminal year for Cyphers. It has seen us embrace our new Basingstoke home, make invaluable connections with venues and companies in the area and produce our most ambitious and successful production yet.
2017 was largely about two things: Northanger Abbey and the future.
By the future I mean putting in place the company structures and processes that can allow us to keep up with our artistic ambitions. It’s been a rollercoaster of a ride getting to this point. When Victoria and I first got together to create Cyphers back in 2013, we had no idea what a task we were taking on. Which was probably just as well!
We set out with two clear ambitions: first, to make work that was about the imagination, that was about story not spectacle and focussed on creating an intimate bond between actors and audience; second, to start to bridge the gap between student and professional theatre, making theatre as accessible as possible to those who had already forked out thousands for a university education.
Four years down the line, we’ve produced Henry V, Great Expectations, A Chekhov Double Bill, The Three Musketeers and Northanger Abbey, we’ve included opportunities for students all along the way and next term we will embark on our third Cyphers Create training programme for students.
This is all fantastic but we’d reached a point where making this sustainable required a moment of stepping back and putting processes in place that would allow us to continue to grow, secure funding and start to tour work on a bigger scale.
As such, the company has seen some restructuring in the last year. Will Holyhead (who may be familiar to Cyphers’ audiences from his appearances as Fluellen, d’Artagnan and Miss Haversham) and Katherine Rigg (whose skills as an adaptor have contributed so much to Northanger Abbey’s success) have both become co-Artistic Directors. This has already had a huge impact on our ability to keep the ball rolling. With the three of us working together we’re able to spread the workload, increasing both the company’s output and the quality of that output.
Cyphers Communicate – our voice and communications training programme – has also become a significant part of the company’s plans. In 2017, we worked with the brand new King’s Business School to provide academic staff with the skills to effectively communicate their ideas to their students and fellow academics. This work will continue into 2018.
Dress Rehearsal of Northanger Abbey at the Guildhall Winchester.
But the main focus of last year was Northanger Abbey. This has been a fantastic experience for Cyphers. It is through this production that I’ve realised how far we have come since we started out in 2014 and, as such, it also makes me incredibly excited for the company’s future.
I think all companies have to take a chance on introducing some fresh blood into their rehearsal room at some point. From an early stage, I felt this was the production to do just that. As such, Howard Horner was the only member of the Northanger cast that had performed in a Cyphers show before. On the creative side, we not only had Katherine Rigg adapting her first show for Cyphers but Kate Smith added her invaluable musical touch to the rehearsal room – the recurring ‘Gothic chord’ in the show is all down to her! It has been incredibly rewarding to introduce these new faces to the Cyphers family and see them really embrace, enjoy and develop the company style and approach.
2018 will be another big year for the company. We start the year with Cyphers Create at Imperial and King’s College London, as we prepare to take Northanger Abbey on tour later in the summer – dates to be announced very soon!
I’d like to finish by saying a huge thank you to everyone who supported Cyphers in any way last year. A special thank you must be given to Proteus Theatre Company who have been phenomenally supportive and have very much made Basingstoke feel like home. I also want to say thank you to everyone who saw a Cyphers show last year, went to one of our workshops, met us for a coffee, offered their thoughts and advice, or simply read our blog!
From everyone at Cyphers, we wish you all the very best for 2018!
MARCUS BAZLEY Artistic Director and co-founder of Cyphers Theatre Company.