Interview with Phil Newby, Head of Marketing at The Roundhouse

A while ago I wrote a few pieces on theatre trailers and a few days ago I received an email from The Wooster Group saying they’d like me to talk to them about it. Which is exciting, if a little belated (watch out for that interview on a DIFFERENT subject coming out soon). BUT why am I wittering on about all this you may very justifiably ask…?!

WELL… it reminded me that I had this gorgeous set of Q&A’s languishing in My Documents which is a crime because Phil’s responses are too interesting for just little old me to have seen them.

So I’ve decided to share them in their entirety…I know it’s quite long but please do read on, he jolly well knows his stuff.

What is the ethos behind theatre trailers for you. What’s their job?

The holy grail of marketing has always been that much-talked-about, but often little-understood phenomenon: word of mouth. Until relatively recently, this might have spread though phone calls, conversations in pubs and so-on, but as we all know, nowadays what we’re really talking about is online sharing through social media. For me, video trailers are the most effective tool to facilitate personal recommendations – people are much more likely to share a video with their friends than a web page with copy explaining what a show is all about, and therefore by offering video content, you’re giving audiences the tools they need to become ambassadors for your production or your venue.

I recently attended a conference where someone quoted an incredible figure: we are now watching 11,000 years of online video every month in the UK alone, with sharing of video content growing exponentially in volume and speed. As arts marketers, we need to tap into the huge potential of this, both to sell tickets for our shows and to engage audiences in new ways.

What type of trailer have you found works most successfully?

As with all marketing, the focus should be about clear communication. A colleague of mine remarked recently that a lot of theatre trailers are now produced to look like film trailers – super-quick edits, a focus on action over depth and so on. But whereas film marketing often takes this overtly opportunistic approach to marketing, as arts organisations we need to build trust and long-term relationships with our audiences, and so this approach can be really damaging for audience development.

For me, the goal with online video marketing creative is to remove the element of risk for the potential booker, to give audiences a clear and full insight into the show they’re thinking about booking. They can also be a chance to give audiences a deeper insight into the artist or the work, or even compliment the work itself. This is absolutely the case with our promo films for PolarBear’s upcoming show.

I think it’s also important when creating film content around a production that collaboration is encouraged between the artist and the filmmaker. This is the key to creating something that sits between a traditional marketing trailer and purely creative output, which is where we feel the PolarBear films sit. We’re also lucky enough to have an in-house production team here at the Roundhouse which allows to to pursue this kind of collaborative approach to content production.

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Theatre trailers mark 2: The marketing men get their say.

The last blog I wrote on theatre trailers made me rather unpopular. So like a fool I decided to go back for more and my bravery paid off – I found out some very insightful things…Videos encourage online word of mouth and therefore group ticket buying. Perhaps most importantly they can build trust between an audience and a brand. All in all, maybe a picture really is worth more than a thousand words…

Here’s the full thing on The Guardian’s Culture Professional Network, do let me know what you think:


As You Like It @ The Roundhouse

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Review: As You Like It – RSC @ Roundhouse ***

There’s something very adult about Michael Boyd’s smooth production of As You Like It, currently wooing audiences at The Roundhouse. Boyd takes Shakespeare’s pastoral comedy and turns it into a corseted lover; inside this sophisticated production there’s an exuberant play wriggling to get out.

It all looks and sounds gorgeous of course with Tom Piper’s design and Struan Leslie’s delicate choreography gracefully encasing this genteel beast. It’s a floating concept and you feel in a bubble as our characters traipse Piper’s minimalistic set, their clothes shifting from period to modern dress. This is perhaps to reflect the magic environment of the forest of Arden but it’s all terribly cerebral.

The performances are all also set squarely above the shoulders. This is a consummate company with each performer playing their role prettily, but in this firmament of well-crafted souls only a few truly shine. In a show that prizes earnestness over frivolity it is perhaps fitting that Jaques should be one such star. Forbes Masson has a stunning alto voice and a beautifully neat ankle. Masson languishes around the stage wittily and pointedly highlighting each ridiculous moment with Byronic flair but his purple eyes reveal an oddly moving anguish.

Katy Stephens’ Rosalind is vivacious and bold if a little hyper, her constantly glistening eyes betraying an anxious nerviness at odds with this light hearted romantic comedy. She and Mariah Gale play like tiger cubs and their love for each other is palpable. If Rosalind and Celia are usually sun and moon, here the pale moon shines just as brightly as it’s brash cousin with Gale turning in a complex, moving performance as the loyal sidekick.

That Boyd has given us an intelligent As You Like It cannot be denied.  But it never transfers from the head to the heart and though there are laughs to be had here, there is strangely very little joy.

Runs until 5th February 2011.

Review: Julius Caesar at The Roundhouse

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Julius Caesar is Shakespeare’s summer blockbuster, positively bristling with action packed violence. It’s a miracle Ridley Scott and Russell Crowe haven’t got their manly mitts all over it. But maybe it’s Shakespeare’s premature ejaculation that’s putting them off; the first act may be dripping with quotes like jewels, climaxing in Mark Antony’s ‘Friends, Romans..’ (you know the rest), but the second feels distinctly limp. What a disappointment.

Still you can’t blame this on the RSC or Lucy Bailey, whose rich production bleeds Shakespeare’s grisly text for everything it’s got. From the outset we are thrust into a visceral world of wrestling men, sweaty with battle and thick with ambition. Rome is a city of warriors and revellers, with William Dudley’s floating projections of coldly postmodern yet classical structures and braying flickering crowds, offering little consolation or comfort. Bailey grips this chaos tightly, with the latent aggression encased in clever choreography and power play staging.

Greg Hicks’ Caesar controls the rabble with a cocky strut befitting a King. It’s an underplayed but commanding performance and he dies beautifully taking us with him with each desperate lunge and gasping thrust.  He is given a towering eulogy by Darrell D’Silva whose Mark Antony has the crowd, and us, eating out of the palm of his hand. Wracked with grief, this giant is crippled by Caesar’s death, silken in his deception and contemptuous in his triumphant manipulation.

Sam Troughton’s Brutus is less convincing, clothed like a white friar his piety is irritating and he struggles to convince with his guilt wracked soliloquies.  This Brutus’ love for Caesar feels more like a light affection, Troughton’s absence of passion completely taking the sting out of the infamous gasp of betrayal, ‘Et tu Brute’.  His bond with the lean and hungry eyed Cassius (a solid John Mckay) is more believable, but remarkably for a relationship at the heart of the second act, is terribly dull.  It is only when he is with his fellow conspirators that Troughton blossoms into a charismatic leader and in these few scenes we get to glimpse Shakespeare’s tormented anti-hero.

Bailey has delivered another meaty piece of theatre; if you love Julius Caesar you’ll relish this gruesomely classy production.

Runs till 5th February 2011.

A grim little gem of a show – Grimms Review

Con Chiaccio are an incredibly charming company formed of 10 graduates from Middlesex University whose macabre vaudevillian charm will win over even the most hardened London spirit.  In this performance 8 white faced goons revel in the dark imagination of the Brothers Grimm in a patchwork quilt of a show incorporating coral speaking, impassioned reenactments of fairy tale journeys and the odd random silent orchestra performance. 


Performed entirely within a cleverly constructed soundtrack which flips from Romanian folk to bizarre Renaissance classical strings with just the right dose of the sinister, they take you by the hand down several loopy passages and into a darkly vibrant performance of these classic tales of which Roald Dahl would be proud.  Whether they are the grizzly attacking bear, the brave soldier, the witless Hans, the sweetest house in all the forest or just 8 street urchin clowns, they work as one holistic being made up of 8 definite individuals.    


But at the heart of their work is the fact that there is something infinitely enrapturing about plain and truthful storytelling and Grimms is just that.  Delighting in all the theatrical tricks known to them they take each word and phrase from these old stories and play and tumble with them like lion cubs, never afraid to snap and bite at one another but never in danger of hunting alone.  They are children with the forethought of adults and with every sweet word and grin comes a knowing wink and a look of sin (sorry, didn’t mean that to rhyme) so that all the while one sees a bunch of innocents who know far too much about the world.  This makes them delectably attractive to go along with.  Give your soul over to Con Chiaccio for 45 minutes but watch out for it or a nimble devil may just grab it from you before their telling is out.


This show was 6th – 8th August at The Roundhouse but find out about future work from the company at


Edinburgh I love you, but let me flirt with London a little…it’s surprisingly tempting

I wrote this piece when I didn’t know that I was going to be going up to Edinburgh with my lovely friend (and children’s book writer – PLUG!) Louise Beere, but I like it so much that I’m going to post it anyway so read on McDuff and the basic premise is the same – Edinburgh in August is fabulous, but London has revealed itself to be just as wonderful:

Edinburgh is calling to me like a long lost lover.  Loud and clear over the airwaves, newspaper pages and facebook status updates, everywhere I look the presence of the Edinburgh Fringe haunts me with it’s vibrancy, variety, drinking and surprisingly good weather.  Great fun if you’re stuck down in little old London.  But not for me the moping of one whose financially straights have caused this enforced separation, no darkened bedrooms and constant stalking of facebook friends who are up there for a bread crumb of the experience. No! Once more into the theatrical breach dear friends, and blow me down what a delectable breach London has to offer in this holiday month.

So far I’ve seen an appallingly lazy production of Dreams of Violence at the Soho Theatre (boyfriends and girlfriends shouldn’t work together if this half arsed attempt is the result) that was great fun to rip apart, a delightful theatrical ditty in the form of Con Ghiaccio’s Grimms, an insightful production of Tis Pity She’s A Whore and an all woman glam rock version of Macbeth.  Next up is absurdist comedy Mascha and Vascha, a Butoh inspired performance, Down-A and a one woman show about family loss, Twinless.  And all that’s in one week.

There’s just so much choice for a city supposedly put to sleep by the migration of artists to the great Scottish capital and although much of this variety has to do with the punked up Camden Fringe, other great fringe London venues are refusing to be cowed, with the Royal Vauxhall Tavern’s Hot August Fringe naughtily representing the South in its usual fabulous fashion and The Arcola in Dalston with the delightfully trendy Arcola Grimeborn Festival.

So forgive me Edinburgh if I let my hair down a little in this glorious capital of mine and forget to stay with my head under the covers pining for you; you have my heart, but what’s a girl to do in the face of so much theatrical temptation? I’m off to flirt more with a bit of the London theatre scene and over the next couple of days I’ll be posting the bits that I’ve written for The Camden Voyeur and also The Fringe Review because it may be repetition but it’s what I’ve been writing this month and this poor blog oh mine has frankly been looking quite neglected.

Exposure has everything to do with length.

“A David has emerged to challenge the Edinburgh Goliath: the Camden Fringe” The Guardian

The fourth Camden Fringe starts on 3rd August and in its three year tenure it has grown into a diverse and credible festival.  But apart from the above golden nugget from the Guardian very little national press covers the up and coming contender.  This of course has something to do with the presence of the saturated giant that is Edinburgh but there is another much more practical reason for this lack of printed promotion.

Looking through the brochure this year and attempting to pick shows to review and cover for both The Camden Voyeur and Fringe Review, I was struck by how every show, with the exception of perhaps 3 or 4, is only running for a two/three day period.  A write up is somewhat redundant therefore because you see it on the first night, the review comes out and it’s already the last night.  This is especially true for a printed publication such as The Camden Voyeur which has a turn around of 4 days making it very tricky for the printed version to be current (although it will of course be fabulous and full of interviews and Victorian witticisms!).

Now I wouldn’t be boo who-ing if there wasn’t good work to promote, but as it is there are some real gems to be found in the programme and some fabulous venues involved and it would be quite nice to shout about it.  If the fringe wants to get more national coverage and therefore boost its profile (and I’m just assuming that it does by the way, maybe it likes being David?) then it should consider programming work for longer runs.  And yes this would inevitably mean less shows but maybe that wouldn’t be a bad thing either; quality and not quantity – now that’s the way to beat Edinburgh.