Celebrating 5 years of bringing outsiders in
Five years ago today, 11 actors stepped out onto the intimate stage of Jermyn Street Theatre in London and marked the birth of Ardent Theatre Company. The play was a long forgotten gem by John Van Druten called Flowers of the Forest and the production was directed by the then Artistic Director of the venue, Anthony Biggs.
The idea of setting up a new company emerged from conversations between Andrew Muir and myself across the corner of a desk where we were both working. We shared similar journeys of growing up on the South Coast and were drawn to London as the only means of pursuing artistic careers. We both felt like outsiders in what seemed then an impenetrable city.
The script of Flowers of the Forest lay neglected and gathering dust in a Welsh library, waiting to be discovered by a friend, Jim McCarthy:
“I think, in a volume called Best Plays of 1937, or some such date. Then I tracked down an individual copy but I can't remember how. Did I go to Hay on Wye?? What a great play and what a good account of it you all gave! My very immediate memory of reading that play was that there was no doubt this merited rediscovery but that it had never stopped speaking to our times. It could have moved from 1914 to the 21st Century.”
The script landed in the lap of Anthony Biggs, who also fell in love with it and invited us on board as co-producers; thus giving birth to Ardent Theatre Company.
What an exhilarating, and at times exhausting, roller coaster journey it’s been.
In Party Lines, we crammed 20 artists and more than 80 audience members into the tiny confines of Westminster Reference Library to tear apart party political policies on the day following the 2015 General Election result.
We launched our flagship ARDENT8 project giving young, exceptional talent from outside London the opportunity to take their rightful place in London’s theatre heartland. How proud they made us giving faultless performances in Sacrifice for one hot summer week at Soho Theatre last year; and now we begin again with another talented group of 8 we can’t wait to see perform.
We’ve celebrated the unsung heroes of theatre in our In Conversation events; people who have worked tirelessly to help others at the early stages of their acting careers.
Then this year, we produced the first-ever professional revival in 31 years of Phil Osment’s beautiful and relevant play This Island’s Mine, gaining 4 and 5 star reviews.
And it’s only just beginning.
We’re currently working on plans for the next five years to be launched in 2020. We’re taking our time talking, planning, thinking, consulting and sometimes arguing to ensure we put forward the best possible programme to achieve our mission of making theatre a place where no one feels like an outsider.
Final word though must go to you; the people who have stuck by us, supported us and put their faith in us over the last five years.
As we cut the cake and raise a glass, we give thanks to the actors, writers, directors, stage managers, designers, technicians, costume supervisors, workshop leaders, trustees, funders, participants, venues, companies and organisations that we’ve had the honour to work with.
Last, but not least, we thank the audiences who have turned up to experience the work and share in this journey.
Happy Anniversary from us to you - our Ardent family.
To commemorate five years of bringing outsiders in, we’re delving into the archives over the next few weeks to share some of the highlights of our journey. Make sure you follow us across all 3 social media platforms - Facebook, Instagram and Twitter - to experience the full celebration.
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