At a press reception held at the West End club Century, ATG's joint chief executive and creative director Howard Panter called the initiative "a new creative bridge to create, produce and exchange work that would not otherwise be produced."
The first manifestation of this new partnership is Riflemind, opening at Trafalgar Studios Sept. 18 (following previews from Sept. 15). Andrew Upton's play was first produced last year at Sydney Theatre Company, where Upton is co-artistic director with his wife Cate Blanchett. It is directed by Philip Seymour Hoffman, who originally directed the Sydney premiere, and is co-artistic director of LABryinth with John Ortiz and John Gould Rubin.
At the press conference, attended by Upton, Blanchett and Hoffman, as well as STC's general manager Rob Brookman and LAB's Rubin, the arrangement between the companies was variously referred to as being organic and not exclusive. ATG's Panter described it as "not monogamous, but a special relationship, in which we will tell each other what we are doing."
Hoffman, who previously directed his LAByrinth production of Stephen Adly Guirgis' Jesus Hopped the 'A' Train in London, said of that occasion, "I had a ball [with it]. But this is more about Andrew Upton and my relationship with him. I think he's an exciting writer, and having another opportunity to work on his play. New plays need time to grow, and you need to be performing them, workshopping them and rehearsing them, to keep getting at it and getting at it. So, to have another opportunity to look at this play and do any re-writing work is welcome, and we have some new actors which gives it a fresh look and fresh ideas; doing it in London I just a plus."
About the new relationship with Trafalgar Studios and ATG, John Gould Rubin, LAB's co-artistic as well as executive director, added, "They're just starting with us, and helping to finance the show we're doing in the fall, Philip Roth in Khartoum, and we're talking about another show later in the year. I don't know if there will ever be absolute regularity – we're doing a bunch of shows, including this reading series of plays we workshopped in the summer, which [ATG's] Tali Pelman will come over to see, and see if there's any interest from Trafalgar to help develop some of them. It'll be on a case-by-case basis." Hoffman added, "The more organic it is the better – the more planned it is makes it always a tricky thing with plays." He has never appeared on the London stage, and in response to a question as to whether he would like to, he said, "I would love to have you see me, but I'm about to have my third child and I can't leave my home for that long a period of time. You've got to have at least six months. So the only place I can really do a play right now is New York. I'm going to keep doing theatre, but if I do it somewhere else it will have to be for short runs."
Hoffman's relationship with Upton and Blanchett, he says, dates back to the film "The Talented Mr. Ripley": "[We] weren't stars [yet]. I think its very important to understand that my friendship with Andrew and Cate goes back to a bunch of young people hanging out, in which I had a small part in a film and being in Rome for the first time and doing that kind of thing. That is how I know them – I became friends with Andrew back then, and we've stayed friends since. I've been close to [Andrew's] work since then, and what's exciting about this is the risks they are willing to take – we have like-minded feelings about what theatre can be and should be, and I think Andrew is a very exciting writer."
For Blanchett, what's important about the relationship between the participants to the new partnership is that "all three companies are committed to the development process. It is not about putting on work before it is ready. Part of what excites us about the connection is that it's about workshops and readings and things that bubble away in the cauldron of development before they even reach the stage."
There is no timetable for projects they could work on together. "The development process is unpredictable," Blanchett adds, "so you don't know what is going to emerge. Part of the connection is to be engaged and nimble. It's not an exclusive arrangement – the theatre is all about communication, and we don't exist in isolation."