“Four Thieves’ Vinegar is a character driven piece of new writing, set in London during the plague of 1665, which explores the behaviour of ordinary people in times of disaster,” says Adam Bambrough, Artistic Director of The 42nd Theatre Company. The play, written by Christine Foster, opens next month at the Barons Court Theatre and is the company’s debut production.
“I set up The 42nd Theatre Company as I wanted to be involved in the creative process from the ground up,” explains Adam. “I was a theatre actor for years and grew tired of working for companies who used their actors as pawns, rather than assistant story-tellers, so moved into directing with the aim of being more creative. This company was meant to be a side project in-between directing published plays elsewhere, but it has evolved into so much more.
“Our underlying ambition is to become the leading theatre company for unproduced writers and emerging artists in the UK. We’re a long, long way from achieving that, but hopefully, this production will be the first step along that path.”
Since being established in 2013, Adam and the team have received over 2,000 plays, but Christine Foster’s first professional full-length play stood out from the crowd. “We work with writers who’ve never had their work produced before, so most plays that we receive are a long way from being ready for the stage – but we read every submission that we receive in full, looking for signs of an interesting story, told with relatable characters and memorable moments.
“Even in the first draft, Four Thieves’ Vinegar had those qualities, more so than any of the other submissions that we read. There was a story that immediately interested me, characters who I connected with and moments that I could imagine audiences going to bed at night thinking about. If there’s one word I’d like people to use after seeing this show, it’s ‘relatable’.”
Four Thieves’ Vinegar follows alchemist Matthias, who’s been thrown in jail and must enlist the dubious help of his cellmates Hannah and Jennet to make a cure for the Black Death. But even though it’s set in 1665, the story is still very relevant to our lives today. “The play examines the human spirit, the most connectable theme of all,” says Adam. “Every one of us is faced with circumstances at some point in our lives that we do not know how we will react to until we are faced by them, whatever the scale – and the parallels to modern life can be found all over the world, be it in the current migration crisis or the outbreak of Ebola in West Africa a few years ago.”
As well as their passion for supporting new writers, The 42nd Theatre Company are also committed to fair wages for the artists they work with, and to equal representation for women. “Starting a new theatre company is the perfect opportunity to remodel the way things are done and a lot of our core principles came from my experiences as an actor – and, to a lesser extent, as a director for hire,” explains Adam. “I am a firm believer that artists should be treated with respect from the outset and paid for their work, which is why we are a proud supporter of Equity’s Professionally Made Professionally Paid campaign. There should be opportunities for new voices to be heard in theatre, as there is so much potential out there, it just needs to be nurtured.
“There are also some principles that stem from my personal life. I have a three-year-old daughter and I often wonder what the theatre landscape will look like for her when she is older. I want her to be treated as fairly and equally as any man, which led me to commit to ensuring that at least half of the cast and creative team on our every production, including Four Thieves’ Vinegar, will be women. There really should be equally representation and opportunity for all in theatre, regardless of gender, race or social background.”
Four Thieves’ Vinegar is at the Barons Court Theatre from 8th-26th March.