Vicky Featherstone's final interview as artistic director of the National Theatre of Scotland
In your six years as director of the National Theatre of Scotland, where was the best non-theatre performance space?
There were so many. Of the Home things, the Shetland ferry was amazing; obviously the tower block; and the Caithness Glass Factory filled with sand by Matthew Lenton was an incredible experience. And then the Dunlop factory in Dunfermline where we did one of our Transforms . . . and there was a small garage in Thurso where there was a dream sequence from Transform Hunter that John Tiffany and Steven Hoggett did . . . and, of course, the forest in Argyle and Bute for NVA was incredible.
I think the definition of a good site-specific space is surprise. It's about seeing something that you otherwise wouldn't have access to or seeing it in a different way, like the airport for Roam [right]. We all go to airports and the fact of being airside but not travelling felt really exciting. How weird is that? I think it's about being somewhere where you are experiencing the place differently, either because you haven't been able to go in there before, like the Dunlop factory, or because something has been done differently to it and that's a visceral response.
What was your favourite Five-Minute Theatre play?
This is a hard one. There are some that stood out, but it's like if I asked you which is your favourite child. As every other one came on, I was able to find a place in my heart to love it as much as the one before – genuinely. It was cumulative thing.
What was the most interesting audience reaction?
One that's really stayed in my head was the first audience for Wolves in the Walls in New York, where 500 kids from Harlem came to see it in the New Victory on 42nd Street. We were like, "How are they going to get this piece of Scottish theatre?" and, of course, they got every word and clapped and cheered. That was an amazing experience. We just did Jump and there was this silence from the boys who'd come to see their friends in it. That kind of silence from groups of people you don't expect silence from is always really meaningful.
What was the thing you'd have done differently if you could have your time again?
Because everything we do is imperfect, by the nature of it being art, I would do everything differently! I would set up the company differently. We work as such a team at the National Theatre of Scotland, but we still have departments, because that's the way that organisations are run traditionally. If I started again, knowing what I know now, I wouldn't set up departments. Once you have them, it’s hard to change them. We don’t really work departmentally, we work round projects. I would love to have set up the National Theatre of Scotland with individuals doing jobs together in teams. We're definitely at our best when we do a project like Five-Minute Theatre when everybody, the whole organisation, has to make it work.
There are so many things I'd have done differently. I wouldn't have put 365 [left] on so quickly. We ended up putting that piece of work on for the EIF to have a production, whereas I would have liked to have continued to do the research to find out what it was. It was a missed opportunity. It was nearly what it should have been, but it wasn't enough.
What was the most brilliant idea that didn't quite happen?
In a way, you hope that they still can happen. What happens with us is if they're brilliant ideas, they do happen, they just go dormant for a while and then we come back to them. I'll tell you one thing that has interested me and, personally, I would love to find a way to look at again: we did a women's event at the Mitchell Library and they let us look at the collections. There's this incredible book by the women from the siege of Leningrad as a present to the women of Coatbridge who had sent them food and blankets. At the end of the siege, they made this beautiful scrapbook with letters, photos and poems to say thank you to them. I want to make a piece of theatre about that and I've never had the space or time to focus on it. I still want to make it happen.
What was the most underrated show?
In terms of the critics, Long Gone Lonesome was really underrated, because I think we got them all to see it too soon. It's a piece of theatre that defines what the National Theatre of Scotland is, which is about finding the right form to tell a story that has never been told before. This was told through a gig. Seeing the response it's had in America, I just think it was too raw and the critics didn't get a second chance to see it.
Who was the most unsung backstage person or crew?
Ian Gilmour is the guy who came to drive our first ever truck. He and his son have a logistics company [Ian Gilmour Transport] and they have driven the National Theatre of Scotland all over Scotland. They're the ones who have made us national. They never had any interest in theatre before and now they're really passionate.
What was the toughest decision?
To leave the job.
What was the easiest decision?
Taking the job. It was a no-brainer.
What is the thing of which you are most proud?
What I'm most proud of is that within six years, we are a National Theatre of Scotland that feels like it's been around for longer for the people of Scotland. To have connected with so many people in a meaningful way so that they have ownership of it is one thing I'm really proud of. The other thing is the team who are the National Theatre of Scotland – I'm really proud of how fearless and brilliant they are.
LAST CHANCE TO SEE
Snow White, Palace Theatre, Kilmarnock Nov 24–Dec 30
Cinderella, MacRobert Arts Centre, Stirling, Nov 28–Dec 31
Cinderella, Royal Lyceum, Edinburgh, Nov 29–Dec 29
Snow White, Byre Theatre, St Andrews, Nov 29–Dec 30
The Ugly Duckling, Arches/Catherine Wheels, Arches, Glasgow Nov 30–Dec 30
The Polar Bears Go Wild, Fish and Game, MacRobert Arts Centre, Stirling, Dec 4–30
A Christmas Carol, NTS, Old Kirk, Kirkcaldy, Dec 7–30
Twinkle Bell, Grinagog Theatre Company, Citizens, Glasgow, Dec 8–30
12 December 2012 The Guardian
By Rufus Norris. A Citizens Theatre review.
11 December 2012 The Guardian
The Snow Queen
By Mike Kenny. A Dundee Rep review
10 December 2012 TheGuardian
By Johnny McKnight. A Tron Theatre review.
7 December 2012 The Guardian
By Andy Manley and Shona Reppe. A Catherine Wheels/Arches review
3 December 2012 The Guardian
By Johnny McKnight. A Royal Lyceum Theatre review.