David Doyle on Footprints Festival at Jermyn Street Theatre, “I can’t think of a better way to start our big birthday year!”

The third Jermyn Street Theatre Footprints Festival opens next week. Running from 10 January to 10 February 2024, the festival showcases new writing and young talent and opens as the theatre enters its 30th birthday year.

This year, the festival features six new plays – and we’ll be there to review them all. It kicks off with The Good John Proctor by Talene Monahon; the play is set in the year before the events of Arthur Miller’s classic play about the Salem Witch Trials, The Crucible. It stars Sabrina Wu, Anna Fordham, Amber Sylvia Edwards and Lydia Larson with direction by 2023 Carne Deputy Director Anna Ryder.

Running in repertory with The Good John Proctor is Jaisal Marmion’s debut work Boy In Da Korma directed by Ben Grant, the story of a half-Indian, half-Irish boy on the rural south-west coast of Ireland who believes he is Tupac reincarnated. Alongside Boy In The Korma, audiences can also catch The Pursuit of Joy written by Safaa Benson-Effiom and directed by Brigitte Adela.

Opening in on 23 January and running through to 6 February is the winning entry of the Woven Voices Prize for Playwriting 2023. Spanning five decades, The E.U. Killed My Dad, written by Aaron Kilercioglu and directed by Georgina Green, is a tensely gripping thriller that tells the story of a family reunion which fast becomes an exhilarating whodunnit.

As February gets underway Flora Wilson Brown’s multi-period climate crisis play – A Beautiful Future Is Coming opens as a Co-Production with DONOTALIGHT. The play spans 250 years of climate crisis and features direction from Harry Tennison.

Rounding of Footprints Festival is Two Rounds, written by Oscar-nominee Cristina Comencini and translated and directed by Aida Rocci. A Jermyn Street Theatre and Aslant Theatre Co-Production, this award-winning Italian comedy offers a delicate reflection on being a woman across generations, beginning in 1960s Italy.

Ahead of the festival opening, we caught up with David Doyle, who has been the Jermyn Street Theatre’s Executive Producer since joining from the Dublin’s Abbey Theatre in 2021. We got his thoughts on presenting new work, programming the festival and what he’s looking forward to seeing most.

Footprints Festival promotional image

Q&A with Jermyn Street Theatre’s Executive Producer, David Doyle

How does it feel to be taking Footprints Festival into its third year?

Footprints is one of the most exciting times of the year at Jermyn Street Theatre and I can’t wait for the 2024 edition which begins our 30th anniversary year in January. It’s such a thrill to open the doors of the theatre to such a vibrant mix of artists for five weeks. This year we’re presenting six plays. I’m so excited by all of them and the artists making them so I can’t think of a better way to start our big birthday year!

How did you approach programming the festival?

Our Creative Associates are at the heart of the festival and this year they brought us their ideas for shows. We’ve worked with them over the course of the year to really develop and hone those ideas, and the work they’ve made is really electric. I think at its core the approach has been to give artists the space to make the work they want to.

How important is it to provide these kinds of opportunities for new work?

I think festivals like this are vital, they’re how I made most of my work when I started out. It feels increasingly hard for artists to get their work platformed now, certainly much harder than pre-COVID. Things that were integral like VAULT Festival aren’t happening as usual in January and spaces in the West End, where we are, feel increasingly rare. It’s crucial that we protect the infrastructure that lets new work happen at the moment – culture is at the core of London’s identity, and we need to make sure that we don’t lose the spaces that allow it to happen.

Does it feel like taking a risk in presenting a festival focused on new work for theatre?

New work is always a bit more of a risk but every production you do is a risk anyway. This year we’ve done 7 world premieres and some of our biggest box office hits have been new work. It’s always more work for a theatre to support a new play but I think it’s really important that theatres keep making new plays. The plays that we think of as the sure-fire box-office hits of today were one day new plays themselves. The great thing about Footprints is it’s a chance for audiences to see the theatre stars of tomorrow early in their careers and be able to brag about that later.

Was it a challenge to get the right balance of plays across the month?

It’s always a challenge to strike a good balance but that’s also the most exciting thing about a festival. You can begin to think of the conversations that presenting certain plays together spark and really think about how audiences are going to experience everything. This year we’ve got plays that stretch from the 17th century to the 22nd century and take in stories from the climate crisis to Tupac so there’s something for everyone in it.

Are there any of the shows you’re particularly looking forward to seeing?

I’m particularly excited for Aaron Kilercioglu’s The EU Killed My Dad. I’ve been a huge fan of Aaron’s writing for a number of years. This is such an innovative and funny play that I can’t wait to watch with audiences. It won this year’s Woven Voices Prize for Playwriting which is a playwriting prize for migrant writers that we run with Woven Voices, and which feels particularly important at the moment. Festivals are always about the conversations they start, and I can’t wait to eavesdrop on the audience’s conversations after they’ve seen this one. 

Footprints Festival runs at Jermyn Street Theatre from January to February.  For more details and to book, visit the theatre’s website.