By Nick Nugent
Where are you from?
I was born near Watford F.C. to an Italian Father and Irish mother.
What is you do?
I run the Badhuis Theatre
Do you have family here?
I have 5 kids and my eldest daughter is 23.
How did you end up in Amsterdam?
I have now been working for 40 years as a theatre maker and actor. It was really down to the fact I was a young actor on tour and I went to see a play at the Roundhouse in Chalk Farm with Nicol Williamson playing Hamlet. Marianne Faithful was in it too. Nicol Williamson was a famous Scottish actor known for being Merlin in Excalibur. It was mind blowing for me as a young actor of 17/18 to see him and Antony Hopkins who was playing Claudius. At the bar afterwards a few people said you need to get yourselves off to Amsterdam it’s all happening over there.
This was 1976. We had an arts council grant to go on tour all round British Isles as a young touring company and we got a call to come to Rotterdam at De Lantaren. We got paid 1,000 guilders for that which was amazing as we were mostly going around in a overfull Ford Transit, sleeping on people’s floors, (doing shows for 50 quid all the way to Glasgow and back) then suddenly to have 1,000 guilders was amazing. We won an award for that performance. After that we got a call from a promoter in Amsterdam and we played Melkweg and Paradiso. The company was travelling backwards and forwards all over Europe between England, Scotland, Germany, Italy and Amsterdam. We were a young company and were becoming successful, earning money was easy. That was the danger as we started to get lazy, as it was too easy to earn money and you would drop your standards. So the company broke up and that’s how I found myself working as a teacher and independent actor/director remaining in Amsterdam.
What is the Badhuis Theatre?
We are an independent Community Theatre which is very well known concept in places like UK, Italy and France, but there is not so much of a tradition in the Netherlands. Community theatre in UK earns it’s money 80% from sponsorship from local businesses and the businesses gain from the promotion of them supporting local theatre. It is our aim to do this more in the future. The Amsterdam city council is very interested in us, we have been here for more than 25 years as part of the community with very little public funding. The local businesses love us because we bring people to them and vice versa .
Many art and theatre centres in the Netherlands are falling down as they are subsidy “junkies” and the Government is cutting back on art funding and if they lose 20% of their funding their whole organisation falls apart.
I want to serve the community of Expats as they usually highly educated, very talented and with a great sense of humour. They are looking for something which will bring them together and have a good time. I don’t want to put on plays that make people want to commit suicide. I’m a theatre manager that’s my job!
What are plans for the future?
We need to be open 7 days a week. We are in the heart of a student village of 20,000 students here and we need to get the students and kids in during the day and put on music, workshops and plays during the night.
We are starting to renovate the whole theatre to make it more easy and multi use.
We do most of the building work ourselves , we have always had to be self-sufficient so we have a load of craftsmen and electricians in our technical staff.
You could run a set making course!
Yes, of course , why not, we have a brilliant guy coming from Leicester who makes great décor pieces and is making a Harp (see picture) for us right now to go on top of the theatre.
Our shows are in general artistic, alternative, but we combine this with mainstream. People want to go out and see something of value. Without pretensions. We want to continue to offer something different but we also do mainstream shows in between.
What is your most favourite production you have put on?
There is no doubt is was “The Good Soldier Svejk.” (see foto) It was just so successful! It’s a comic story set in 1880/90s, in middle Europe about this guy who is brilliant con artist to make excuses for not going to war. We had Russian Director Vladimir Koifman who is very famous now on Russian TV.
We got great reviews, we sold out for a more than a month, 120 people per night, making a lot of people enormously happy. We had a fantastic Polish folk band to play all the songs, a great director, the scenery was black and white and rotated like pages of a book. At the time we didn’t have a penny and after that we were able to pay everyone properly. It was a big hit! We are thinking of bringing it back.
What other things does the theatre host?
For Liberation day we had an open theatre festival in the square outside with 500 local people and salsa band. Everyone loves the live bands we put on at the weekend, but we need to have better sound isolation so we can have more of them. That’s part of the investment plan this summer in the building.
Recently we have had a group of 150 Czech people here for a party, we brought Pilsner Urquell beer directly from German for them and sold come Czech food from our kitchen and they will probably come back again. We have often business lunches here for companies and following lunch they do workshops and have strategy days.
Who are the most famous people you have met?
Well I liked Alan, Alan Rickman, he was a mate of mine. We went to theatre school together, the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art and we were mates up to the point he sadly died. Trevor Eve was also at theatre school with me. Jonathan Price was a year ahead of me in school. Also Jeff Wilkinson, calls himself Tom now. Alan, a few years ago, got involved with the education element for the RADA and we are also very interested in developing the education element of young performers.
What is your view on the EU referendum?
We are stuck in Europe you and me. I’m not really sure what the definite advantages and disadvantages to staying in are. All I hear is propaganda. What struck me clearly was the difference between big and small business. I heard about a small Scottish company making really good quality smoked salmon which they were selling to Norway mostly and last year they had to recall a huge amount of stock to relabel their product with the words “Contains Fish!” which cost them 50k. I do worry the EU is uncontrollable and very big.
Is there anything else you would like to share with our readers?
We are a volunteer organisation. We all have day jobs. Without central funding. So we always need people to help, selling tickets, standing behind the bar, working with lights & sound, making programmes for kids etc..etc.. If you have an evening off send us a mail if would like to help and take part.
We are very generous with beer.
So what is coming up at the theatre?
Shakespeare Karaoke. THE TEMPEST. Fun reading from the big screen/ everybody takes part.
23 June 2016 – 20:15
The Shadow of a Gunman / PART3 Of the DUBLIN TRILOGY by SEAN o CASEY / English spoken.
30th of June till 3rd of July 2016 – 20:15
Sussex Steel band on the theatre terrace FREE CONCERT
27 July 2016 – 16:00 (outside) and 20:00 (inside)
Ricciotti ensemble on the theatre terrace FREE CONCERT
6 August – 14:00
Mike has offered a 25% discount on their latest production The shadow of a Gunman on the 3rd July 8:15. Simply email Mike with the date you wish to go stating you are a British Society Member.