Is Stewart Pringle a closet Wicked fan? Find out this and more as he goes in 10 for 10
Writer, dramaturg, former reviewer and Artistic Director, candlestick-maker – Stewart Pringle has worn many hats (and one of those might be a fib). His reviews for The Stage were always ones to treasure but his Papatango-winning play Trestle was a proper minor-key delight
Where were you 10 years ago?
Finishing my MPhil dissertation, so lost in a quagmire of batty mid-20th century occultists. I’d forsaken the theatre to try to become an academic, which lasted for all of about 18 months before it pulled me back in. I tried to escape again in 2012 and that time I lasted for about 4 weeks. I won’t be trying it a third time.
Best show you’ve seen in the last 10 years?
Men in the Cities by Chris Goode.
What has been your professional highlight of the last 10 years?
I think either opening Trestle and people actually laughing at it, or sitting next to my Mum in Nassim at the Traverse and her being almost inconsolably emotional and thinking ‘it wos theatre wot did that.’
Top flavour of interval ice-cream?
Large glass of house red. Oh hang on, ice-cream?? No.
What show do you wish theatres would give a rest for a few years?
Oh I dunno, we have such a great choice of theatres to go to in the UK that there’s no one play I get fed up with people programming because I just won’t go to see it. I’m not particularly interested in flashy young actors so I’ll probably say Hamlet just because I’m not that bothered about seeing so-and-so give ‘their Hamlet’ and will only go if I hear the production as a whole is wicked.
Name someone who you think is a really underappreciated talent (in the world of theatre)?
David Byrne of the New Di, though I know he’s universally adored, could never be OVERappreciated. He turns blue-sky thinking into robust, workable models for the future and makes everyone else look a decade behind him.
Elphaba or Glinda?
Is Elphaba the green one who sings ‘Defying Gravity’? Probably her? I don’t really remember much about Wicked other than the massive dragon who I loved. Or was that in Shrek the Musical?
What is one thing that you think would help theatre survive and/or thrive the next ten years?
Education, education, education. Get the kids into theatres, get theatre into schools, teach them that it’s theirs, teach them that it’s important, teach them that you don’t have to be an actor or a director or a writer to be part of it. Teach them it can say anything, and that making good art and making it available for everyone is a civil responsibility and a civic joy.
Which is your favourite theatre?
Sounds very biased but it’s the National really, though it wasn’t before I started working here. It always made me feel like I was getting a ride in a friend’s parents’ expensive car – too plush and palpably expensive. But actually I think of it now as a bit of an iceberg theatre. The stuff which is public facing on the Southbank is only a tiny part of what it does, and so much of the best and most generous stuff is happening in school halls and classrooms and in the massive paint frames in the Studio. It’s far, far from perfect, of course, like all hulking public institutions, but it’s getting better and I feel as fiercely protective of its ambitions as I do of the NHS. And it’s also in my favourite building in the city. If I was inventing the world from scratch I’d still want something like the National in it, where nice people toil on gentle things in a vast brutalist monument. With plush carpets.
Can you say anything about what’s to come for you, (in the next ten years or otherwise)?
Never plan! I’d like to keep writing slowly and getting things I’ve written staged occasionally, and to work at the NT for years and years until I’ve learned an awful lot more. And then maybe I’d like to run my own place again. I’d like to move back up North. I’d like to live by the sea. Lauren and I decided this New Year’s that we’d quite like to live in Tynemouth someday, but then we saw Zoe Cooper’s brilliant Out of Water and it made it quite clear that Tynemouth’s for posh wankers so that’s scuppered that…