Interview with... Peter Huntley - Theatre Producer

Hi Peter, very busy times at the moment for you. Which projects are you currently working on?
The Kissing-Dance is the big project at the moment. We'd love it to have a future life so we are pushing for that. Away from there I am working on a potential British premiere of an American play and have two lovely musicals in development. There is also a revival of one of the greatest of all American contemporary revivals that I desperately want to do - I am trying to find a suitable venue for it.

The Kissing-Dance
What made you decide to do “The Kissing Dance” as your first show under the Peter Huntley Productions banner? A couple of years ago I produced the musical Austentatious which was directed by Lotte Wakeham. Lotte had wanted to do The Kissing-Dance for years and had approached my co-producer, Chantelle Staynings. I knew of the show through friends who had been in it. I am also a fan of Howard Goodall and Charles Hart - so it was a no-brainer really.

With all the arts cuts going on, are you finding it difficult to get investment for your productions? In truth I am a commercial producer so I focus on commercial investment. The arts cuts shouldn't impact on that. I think that the real problem for someone like me will be in a few years when the cuts filter through and result in less plays being commissioned by subsidised houses - it will mean transfers of hits like Jerusalem, Warhorse and Enron may be more difficult to come by.

Tell us how you got into being a Theatre Producer? What training and studying did you have to take?
I did a Stage One Apprenticeship last year (2009-2010). Stage One is a charity dedicated to training new producers and investing in new productions. The apprentices are placed with theatre producers and work as Production Assistants in their offices. I was placed with Sonia Friedman Productions (where I currently work as a Production Associate) and the Really Useful Theatre Company. You work with the producers on their shows and you learn on the job. It is an amazing scheme. My BA is in dramaturgy which is an essential skill for producers and I feel it was the beginning of my training. I've always produced though… I just never realised it was what I was doing. I made my class watch my puppet show productions as an 8 year old, produced charity concerts as a teenager and then, crucially, when I wasn't getting acting work in my mid-twenties I temped for the old Theatre Museum. Whilst I was there I was asked to organise a Singalong to My Fair Lady for their late night opening on Friday… It was a terrific hit and it led to a series of singalongs there, in bars, for the Society of London Theatre… People kept saying 'this is what you are good at' and I soon decided I wanted to try a full scale production. That ended up being a bit of a hit for me and the rest, as they say, is history. It was off the back of that that I got Stage One.

Peter Huntley
You were first seen on stage in a production of “The Darling Buds Of May” many years ago… what was it like to be involved in a major production at a young age?
I was 14 and it was amazing. I was the eldest of the children in the show. I remember it was quite a strange show in that I had about two lines and every time I was on I seemed to have to eat. I had to eat ice cream, fish and chips and heaven only knows what else. I also had to look after some animals on stage.

What are your fondest memories of the show?
I loved being around professional actors. It was the first time I'd done a professional show and it was absolutely what I wanted to do.

They say never work with children or animals, that show had lots of animals in, did anything ever go wrong?
I dropped a little girl I was giving a piggy back to in rehearsals. It was subsequently cut for fear I did it on stage. She didn't cry.
We had rabbits and chickens in the show. On the first night my chickens had a fight and we had to separate them. That was unpleasant. On another night the rabbits bounced away from the girls playing my sisters and got themselves planted under a bit of set and right by a pyrotechnic. A member of the stage management team (was it you Steve?) had to instruct me how to take the set apart so I could get the rabbits out. It happened in front of the audience.

Haha, I think that was me yes... You also appeared in York Theatre Royal pantomime “Jack And The Beanstalk”, what was it like working with one of the best dames in the country, Berwick Kaler?
I grew up watching Berwick at the Theatre Royal. He was my childhood hero. I credit that pantomime with being the reason I love theatre. Berwick saw me sing in a concert and cast me in the show. It was amazing really!

While at Mountview you played Paul in Stephen Sondheim’s “Company”. A good role to play?
All the roles in Company are gifts, but I think Paul and Amy's scene is my favourite. I remember a friend saying, after reading the script, that out of all the class only I could have played Paul. I loved him. He's so decent and so in love and you absolutely know why someone as sturdy as that would be in thrall of this insane woman! My gorgeous friend Cassidy Janson played Amy at Southwark… I remembered every word of the scene as I watched it and that is eight years after the event. I should also say that I, like everyone else who loves musicals, am a massive Sondheim fan so it was just a delight to get to do one of his masterpieces.

So, you act, sing, dance, and produce… which is your favourite to do?
I don't do the first three anymore. I get too nervous. Truth to tell I never did the dancing thing very well! Producing is what I love.

What is your favourite production to see at the moment? Any recommendations?
Too many… Legally Blonde is still glorious. I love Betty Blue Eyes and Clybourne Park. I'm currently working on Much Ado About Nothing for Sonia Friedman and I can't wait for people to see it. On Broadway clearly Jerusalem (which I worked on in London) and I can't wait to see The Book of Mormon. Finally… I honestly think The Kissing-Dance is a little marvel!

If you could produce any show with an unlimited budget, what would you choose and why?
I don't think an unlimited budget is very useful… I think budgets actually help us create good art. That said, there are a few big musicals I'd love to do!

Highlight of your career so far?
The moment I opened the first review for Austentatious to see it was five stars and then for them to just keep coming! Getting Stage One. The Jerusalem press night.

Thanks for taking the time to talk to us, will hopefully catch up again soon when you have more shows on.

Find out more about Peter's current projects on his website HERE