10 questions with Robert Durbin of brave folk

Brave folk is a Nordic tale fizzing with humour about love, courage and knowing when to act. The company of five has recently finished their tour in which they performed in 22 venues across the UK.  We caught up with Robert Durbin and asked him about his experience being on tour and being a part of Brave Folk.


Q1.  Brave Folk originally toured as Yorgjin Oxo, how was it stepping back into the rehearsal room knowing changes would be made to make it Brave Folk?

Exciting! I loved our Yorgjin Oxo tour last year, but this is the first time I’ve had the opportunity to revisit a project. It was nice to know that we weren’t hashing out the same show, but rehearsing with care, and trying to making it a better show – which I’m confident we have done. Also, it’s always nice getting back in rehearsal room with lots of familiar faces, and some new ones.

Q2. How do you think touring to village halls and venues differs from performing in a theatre?FM2

I think the main difference is that you are stepping into someone else’s community, with an audience that usually knows each-other quite well – so the company is very much the outsider!

It’s amazing how different audiences can be, depending on where you are in the country. You have trouble gauging that in a normal theatre set up. It’s so much more intimate and engaging rather than sitting back in the stalls watching a musical on the west end!


Q3. What challenges have you/the company faced during this tour?

The snow! Although, it did give us a few days to explore Newcastle, which was lovely!

Q4: What is your favourite memory from the tour?

Doing the show in a church in Cheshire. There are lots of religious images in the play,and to do it in that setting was really special.Apart from that, it’s a great bunch of people in the cast and I love getting to the pub with all of them after the show.


Q5: What was your biggest challenge in making Yorgjin come alive?

I actually think I have the easiest job in the cast with a huge amount of text and opportunity to really engage with the audience and make them warm to Yorgjin. He’s a funny, loveable dim-wit that falls from one unfortunate scenario to another, so I guess the challenge is keeping the audience listening so that they are totally rooting for Yorgjin at the end of the play. I also struggle with harmonies…


Q6:  What advice would you give to an actor about to start their first rural tour?

Make sure you are comfy, and take a little pleasure with you from home – I always tour with my slippers!

I think the biggest thing to say is take advantage of being paid to tour the country – go and see the sights in your time off. It’s a great opportunity to see parts of the country you may not necessarily find yourself in. Get yourself out of your digs and go explore – Netflix can always wait until later

Q7: What do you like about going on tour with Farnham Maltings?

On tour

They really take care of you. The tour always makes sense in terms of where you are going to next, without having to travel long distances after shows. They make sure you are comfortable and if there are any problems with digs or a venue they are usually on hand to help out. It can’t be stated enough how this is an exception in this industry!

Gavin always chooses the most interesting and appropriate pieces for a Village Hall context, and he’s not afraid to challenge the audience with a different type of show, or subject matter. However saying that, the audience always have an uplifting experience.

Q8: Where did you stay whilst on tour and what did you do?

It ranges from Travelodge’s and BnB’s, to self-catering and every now and then you get hosted by some lovely audience members. It’s always good when you get a mix of accommodation!

Last year we stayed in Galashiels with two members of the audience and had great evening working through their whiskey collection. The show the next day was perhaps a little slower than normal.


setupsmallQ9: What is the best feedback you’ve heard and how has that impacted you/the company?

Brave Folk is a unique experience, the audience are arranged around tables in the room and we tell the story in and amongst them. They are greeted at the door and given Marshlander tea, and ‘squelch crumpets’ before the start of the evening and are made to feel as though they are as part of the action as us. It’s very intimate and immediate.

The best feedback is when people appreciate this change from the usual form of theatre – and it surprises them in a nice way.

One lady in Cheshire was really positive about the show and was amazed how we ‘created so much, from so little.’ I think that really sums up what we are trying to do with Brave Folk, so that was brilliant to hear.

Q10: What is the highlight of your days when on tour and what makes an extra special evening?YO 12

The best days are when you don’t have to drive too far, you’ve had a good night’s sleep, the promoter is lovely and welcoming and the get-in is quick and easy – and the organisers provide some great food (which is most of the time).

I think the best evenings are when you have a large audience, who have had a few drinks and know each other. Everyone relaxes and warms into the show a bit quicker, and you get that little buzz from the audience reactions. Also, it’s always nice when you have a few children in the audience too – and if you keep their attention or make them laugh, you know you’ve done well.


Click here for remaining tour dates.


manwatching: q&a with Stephen Carlin

MANWATCHING, presented by The Royal Court and house on tour during spring 2018, explores an anonymous woman’s view of her heterosexual relationships and female sexuality. Each performance of the play is delivered by a different male comedian, none of whom has ever seen or read the play before the moment of stepping on stage.

On 09 February 2018, at the Farnham Maltings, comedian Stephen Carlin was the brave volunteer…

Stephen, why did you agree to take on the MANWATCHING challenge?Karla Gowlett
It was something I hadn’t done before and I always think it is important to get out of your comfort zone. There is also the “dare yourself to do something scary” element. Probably what got me into stand-up comedy in the first place.

What had you heard – if anything – about the piece?
All I knew was that I would be reading the part of a woman talking about her sexual fantasies. And I knew the names of some of the performers who had already taken part in it.  Apart from that I had very little idea about the format or the content of the work and I wanted to keep myself in a state of ignorance. I thought the worst thing would be to half know about it and then try and anticipate how to play it. I felt a blank sheet in my head was far better than half knowledge.

What preparation did you do for the day?
I deliberately didn’t make any. I didn’t think there were any practical preparations I could make, so I decide to keep myself busy with other things. I met up with friends in the morning and I spent the afternoon working on some writing projects. If I didn’t distract myself I would have fretted away the day.

How did you feel in the moment of stepping up on stage; and then halfway through?Karla Gowlett
I have learned over the years to marshal my adrenaline with care. There is no point getting too nervous for an unknown quantity. And this was definitely an unknown quantity. So at the moment of stepping onto stage I was in a no man’s land. I felt uneasy but I wouldn’t say nervous exactly as I couldn’t quantify the challenge ahead. But at this moment I felt a certain freedom, like a condemned man! By halfway through I had a far greater idea of what was required so at that stage I felt the full weight of responsibility and I was also aware of concentrating very hard to try and land every line.

What quality does a stand-up comedian lend to the performance?
A certain resilience and nerve under fire. Over the years in stand-up comedy you get into some pretty tight scrapes and full-on confrontations on occasions. I didn’t think anything in MANWATCHING would get that heated so I assumed that I would be able to cope with whatever was thrown at me.

How did your relationship to the audience differ from your usual shows?
Well I wasn’t in control of the script for starters. In stand-up I am trying to achieve a certain kind of effect and I will select material, vary the performance and ad-lib to try and achieve the desired effect. In stand-up I always have a destination in mind and I am prepared to change routes to get there. MANWATCHING turned all that on its head. I was committed to the route, ie the script, but not the destination. I had no idea where I was heading and also it wasn’t really any of my business. So there was a definite surrender of control which for a stand-up is unusual and uncomfortable.

-®helenmurray Manwatching Royal Court,-3What are your thoughts on the anonymity of the writer?
It certainly stopped me Googling her (I assume it is a ‘her’!) and finding out about her other work. On the one hand the anonymity of the writer added to the overall mystery of the project. But it also strips away preconceptions about age, race, class etc, and you are just left with the words to focus on. So I think the anonymity of the writer lent the words a very powerful impact.

Without giving away too much, what advice would you pass on to the next comedian?
Throw yourself into it, commit to it, enjoy it, don’t worry.

How did you feel in the hours after the performance?
I felt a real mix of emotions. It was a very unique experience. As a performer you are at the centre of the maelstrom. But there is another part of you enjoying the play as an audience hearing it for the first time. There is a strong sense of wanting to do it again. Because inevitably you screw certain bits up and you want another go to do the script justice. The script moves you emotionally particularly as you have never heard it before. Also because you are a man speaking from the point of view of a woman, you realise the negative impact men can have on the lives of women, and that you as a man have been part of that. So it brings into focus the consequences of your own actions in a pretty powerful way. There is also being part of a one-off shared experience with everyone else in the room that will never be repeated. A sense of pride at being involved in a great project. A feeling that, after reading the script, as a fellow writer I need to up my game. A wanting to do it again to remember more of the detail. And simultaneously not being able to quite put into words when people ask you how it was!

February 2018 © Stephen Carlin/house/Farnham Maltings
Photos courtesy of Stephen Carlin

MANWATCHING, presented by the Royal Court and house is on tour from 08 to 24 February 2018

Haevichi Arts Festival in Korea

As part of Farnham Maltings’ international strand of work, artistic director Gavin Stride and tour associate Mark Makin attended the 10th Haevichi Arts Festival on the island of Jeju, South Korea.

Gavin Stride and I had the pleasure of being invited to the 10th Haevichi Arts Festival on the island of Jeju, South Korea. The trip was a wonderful way to learn more about the arts infrastructure in Korea, get a better understanding of the artists and cultural needs of colleagues.

The showcase element of the festival was delivered in short, bitesize chunks, which was great for the amount of work we got to see, but we were keen to see them in a more theatrical environment so we could best imagine the full-length work. The work on show was very traditional music, dance and operetta which felt very well placed for a local Korean market but less so for international export.

Gav and I co-delivered an informal introduction to the UK arts scene covering touring infrastructure, programming, audience development and sustainable venue and festival management. I was happy to be able to dispel one of the main myths in Korea around the Edinburgh Festival Fringe (primarily being that if you take a show there, you find fame and fortune!). We were able to give the pros and the cons of visiting the major UK and European festivals and shared how best to get every opportunity out of visiting them.

We enjoyed the opportunities to get off site to go and explore, connect with local people and enjoy the cuisine (very tasty, with the occasional issue that some of our food would try to leave the plate mid-meal).

We got to spend a day exploring Jeju City, visited its expansive food market which was a feast for both eyes and bellies. Whilst walking in the main park we found ourselves included and involved with several groups of elders engaging in activities including croquet, dancing and extremely vocal games of what we believe to be Chinese chequers. Lots of fun and the language barrier didn’t matter as with gesticulation, smiles and laughter we all were able to enjoy the moment and be included for a short time in the daily activities of a very close knit group of friends.

The trip was a great opportunity to connect with companies already scheduled to be at this year’s Edinburgh Festival Fringe, as well as broaden our knowledge of the arts in Korea. We found a real appetite and willingness to openly share experiences and working practices and we look forward to some of these new relationships building in the future.

Mark Makin, touring associate, house

Farnham Maltings are acting as Executive Producers on the performance strand of a year-long exchange programme between the UK and South Korea. The programme includes projects by LIFT, Crying Out Loud, Momsori Voice Theatre and Ray Lee, a tour of Factory Girls by Yangson Project and a series of collaborative residencies.


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‘You’re a Long Way from Home’ by Action Hero

We’re just back from a research trip for our new project ‘Oh Europa’. Next year we’re going to drive continuously for six months through Europe in an RV, making a piece as we go. So thanks to some funding from Arts Council England and support from Farnham Maltings (UK), Vooruit (BE), Matchbox (DE) and Cabanyal Intim (ES) we’ve just spent a month in a motorhome driving to parts of the UK, Belgium, Germany, France and Switzerland so we could develop the idea and also get used to working, creating and living on the road before we set off for real next year.

After our month away we think the project will be about somehow collecting and carrying sentiments of love, loss, hope, longing, union, heartbreak. A way to orient ourselves as a continent by building a library of voices and then somehow transmitting those voices from the edgelands, hinterlands and boundaries of Europe.

Our motorhome will become a kind of ‘All Terrain Vehicle’ to explore all the terrains of Europe – psychological, emotional and geological. We’ll travel to every country in Europe, to the most northerly, southerly, easterly and westerly points of the continent, explore its limits and its very edges. Destinations will be chosen for their (in)significance as boundaries, margins or thresholds of Europe both historic and present day. The literal edges of the continent such us Cabo Fisterra on the far Western coast of Spain and Cabo da Roca in Portugal but also the invisible boundaries, the geological thresholds and the cultural junctures that populate the continent. The rivers that divide cities, the forgotten borders, the remote outposts of vanished empires, the ancient walls, the ultra-modern dams, the bridges, the mountain ranges, the channels, straits and canals. It’s our hope that the voices of participants in the project might create an alternative atlas of Europe. A different kind of map that might let us see the space we share in a new light. That map will then become the blueprint for a performance. The fragments of sounds/sights/sites of Europe we discover on the way will feed into something we develop as we go, on the road, and present at host destinations on the way.

The sounds we carry with us to the edges might act as disruptive beacons – transmitting an opaque but heartfelt message. The transmission perhaps, as an interruption to the landscape that might re-configure or re-contextualise European identities. A dispatch from elsewhere, broadcast loud and clear from the borderlands/hinterlands/thresholds of Europe. Detached from political soundbites, diplomacy, or art speak the messages might speak about who we are and how we feel and might offer us an opportunity to re-orientate – to hear ourselves emerge out of the white noise.

Now the research period is over we’ll take some time to reflect and think on it and then we’ll plan with our partners in the UK, Germany, Belgium, Hungary and Spain for the real thing next year. We can’t wait!

opportunity: Assistant Director, Jess and Joe Forever


We are looking to appoint a passionate Assistant Director to support Derek Bond through the rehearsals and premier and regional tour of Jess and Joe Forever by Zoe Cooper. Present for rehearsals, technical performances, press night and the subsequent tour the role of Assistant Director will be to manage the smooth transition of the production for touring, and ensure the quality and energy of each touring performance.

We are looking for directors with some experience and interest in regional touring, who are collaborative, team players, and would benefit from the experience as well as being able to undertake all the duties required. Please apply with a CV and covering letter explaining why assisting Derek on a tour of this scale would be helpful to you at this stage of your career.

Project dates:

Rehearsals begin:               Monday 15th August

Production week                 w/c Monday 5th September

First preview:                      Thursday 8th September

Press night:                        Monday 12th September

Run Ends:                           Saturday 8th October

Tour rehearsals:                   Monday 10th October

Tour begins:                        Thursday 13th October

Tour ends:                          Sunday 6th November

Please note that a specific schedule of dates required will be created in partnership with the appointed Assistant Director.


£2,100 (plus an allowance for travel and accommodation on tour)

Making an application:

Please send your CV (no more than two pages) and a covering letter (no more than one page) by email to Sarah Wilson at sarah.wilson@farnhammaltings.com

Appointment schedule:

Deadline for submissions – 12 noon on Wednesday 3rd August 2016

Interviews – Monday 8th August 2016


The premiere of Jess and Joe Forever will take place at Orange Tree Theatre in a co-production with Farnham Maltings. Jess and Joe Forever was originally commissioned by Old Vic New Voices.

10 Questions with Richard Ede

It’s a Wonderful Life opens at the Maltings on 28 November and will tour up and down England and Wales until 1 February 2015. Richard Ede, one of the actors in the company, has taken time out of busy rehearsals to answer a few questions for us. For more information on the tour and booking tickets for the show visit It’s a Wonderful Life.

It's a Wonderful Life

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starting from scratch

Catherine Ireton is a singer, a songwriter, an actress and a theatre maker produced by Farnham Maltings. She will be performing her new show Leaving Home Party at the Fireside Festival on 8 November.

For more information on the Fireside Festival and to book tickets go to the Fireside Festival website. Catherine has written us a blog about her first experience performing at Edinburgh Festival Fringe this year.
Credit: Mark Dean
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