There has been a long, long gestation period leading to the birth of Burning Oak Theatre. I’m trying to trace the origin...the igniting spark, the seed. Perhaps it was watching my older brother play a rock & roll hero in the West End when I was around ten years old; perhaps it was staging ‘fights’ in a neighbour’s back garden with my best mate Steve and charging other kids for a ticket to come and watch. Perhaps it was the moment when, one Christmas, as a 17 year old member of Stage 65 youth group, I first climbed out of the orchestra pit and onto the stage of Salisbury Playhouse to take my place as an extra in the first rehearsal for the professional company’s panto - crossing the line from the outside, the world of the observer, to the inside, the world of the doer. Perhaps that was the spark that lit the long fuse. Perhaps that was the first step along the journey from auditorium, as outside observer, to the moments of deepest immersion inside the story, during my twenty years as a professional actor. Then, finally, back out again; back across the border line, from stage to stalls - now, though, as an observer who has 'experienced' (perezhivanie to use the Stanislavskian phrase) the pulse, the breath, the sweat of the story from the inside.
It’s now over thirty years down the line...a long, long gestation. Now what occupies my mind, takes up my time, lights my fire, is the struggle to creatively shape the story. A playwright is, of course, a maker...a poet is a maker, from the Greek Poiesis, ‘to make’; theatre maker is the trendy term. It is a fundamental, instinctive, primal urge...to make, to shape, to discover the pattern, to literally make sense of the world. To condense something that signifies, something that means, out of the chaos, out of the ‘mess’ as Beckett called it. To continue the metaphor of fire and trees (not that this is where the name of the company came from...Rose Bruford College is on Burnt Oak Lane): if the Oak could symbolize the created material presence in the world - a solid form, life shaped...observable in the present tense - then the energy of the group, the collective will behind its creation, holds the energy, the passion, to make it BURN. A more prosaic cause behind this long, long gestation is the fact that, despite the will of the group and the other necessary conditions for creation: time, space, money - perhaps the most important thing of all is the material, the thing itself (the acorn, to complete the metaphor, full of the hidden energy of the grown tree). I feel that I’ve been waiting for the maker, the playwright, and the thing made, the play. Tom Clancy and Novemberunderground are the reason that Burning Oak has, at long last, caught fire.
The creation of Burning Oak Theatre Company – by Artistic Director Julian Jones: