Boundless Theatre Search


The Stage interview Rob Drummer

23 March 2017

The artistic director of Boundless Theatre – formerly known as Company of Angels – speaks to Catherine Love about dramaturgy, telling stories and the challenge of making theatre for teenagers. You can read the article online here.

When did you first get into theatre? Was there a show that particularly inspired you?

I was taken on a school trip to a Royal Shakespeare Company production of The Tempest at the Barbican in London and it was incredible watching a really highly theatrical version of that play. I remember being taken to this huge, quite fortress-like building, right down into the Pit, and watching this expressive, playful, beautifully designed show and being really in awe of it. That definitely whetted my appetite for theatre. I am indebted to teachers and family for supporting and recognising that early interest. I grew up in a working-class family and so we weren’t at the theatre every single week, and yet my parents were very smart to see that I was interested and they found whatever opportunity they could to put me in front of work. I felt my eyes were opened in those important teenage years to everything that theatre could be.

At what point did you decide which role you wanted to take on in the theatremaking process?

Acting was the first thing that I started thinking I wanted to do and I went through a couple of years of applying to a whole host of drama schools. In the second year of applying, I got down to the final rounds at Guildhall School of Music and Drama and they said to me: “We think you should take a year off and come back to us.” So I put in a very late application to the University of Manchester to study drama and ended up going there for three and a half years. And actually very quickly I started becoming really interested in writing and directing and making. I then decided to apply to Central School of Speech and Drama to their MA in advanced theatre practice as a director. I was one of two directors, and there were some writers, there were some puppeteers, there were some designers and some performers. That process was chaotic and there was some good work and some bad work, but really it was about learning the ropes of telling stories. By that point I knew that it was directing and making work that was my main interest.

You’ve since worked as a dramaturg with both HighTide Festival and London’s Bush Theatre. Dramaturgy remains something of a confused and contested term in the UK. What does it mean to you?

Within the practice of dramaturgy there are very different philosophies and approaches. Are you there to support early research and to develop an academic sounding board for a writer? Are you there as a deviser or co-creator? Within that definition there are many sub-definitions. Specifically referencing the Bush, it was about creating a full-time artistic position within that team. What Madani [Younis – the Bush’s artistic director] identified was a need to support many different kinds of artist. During my time at the Bush we were commissioning straight plays and working with writers from pitch through to production; we were also supporting companies and artists like Caroline Horton, who make their work in a variety of different ways. What was important for the Bush was that there was somebody who could sit within the producing team. For me, dramaturgy is a supportive but also an artistic role. It is another pair of eyes, it is a valve on an artistic process, it is somebody who can be the audience, it’s somebody who can ask why, what and what if as often as possible. I think if I were to reduce everything down to its simplest, it is somebody who questions a narrative, a piece of storytelling.

What brought you to Boundless Theatre and what direction would you like to take the company in over the next few years?

It was the opportunity to be really rigorous and interrogate what a teenage audience at the theatre in this country needs. Working with this company, you have 15 years of doing that work and fighting for young people both as artists and participants, but also crucially as audiences. That was the early hook for me. But the company wasn’t necessarily finding the largest audiences all of the time. So it’s about working with a number of really exciting large producing theatres to ask that question of what does theatre need to look like, what does it need to do, what are the stories we need to tell to engage a young audience. I think it’s an exciting moment to be doing that. The world has shifted, the world is in some form of chaos, and young people are not oblivious to that at all. And yet most theatre for young audiences will strive to simplify the world or perhaps sometimes not even engage with the world head on. I think if we get our job right over the years, the work should feel highly relevant to young people and should slightly terrify parents or teachers. And yet if we can be sophisticated about it, that is part of the point; it’s about forging a conversation.

Tell me about your new show Natives. Does that embody your ambitions for the company?

Natives is the beginning for us as a company. It’s making a piece of work that is uncompromising and putting three teenagers on stage. The play just asks this question of what change can young people bring about for themselves, whether that’s a small, personal change or whether that’s the biggest political change. There is a great pressure on young people to grow up, there is great pressure on young people economically and socially in this country, and so the play kicks around those ideas, but it also does it in a celebratory way.

CV: Rob Drummer

Born: 1987, Ashford, Middlesex
Training: Central School of Speech and Drama
Career highlights: The Train Driver, Hampstead Theatre, London (2010), Flora, Theatre503, London (2011), Perish, HighTide Festival, (2012), Eisteddfod, Latitude Festival (2012), Sense, Company of Angels (2013)
Agent: Dan Usztan, United Agents

Natives runs at Southwark Playhouse, London from March 29 – April 22.

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Full casting announced for boundless theatres’ production of Glenn Waldron’s ‘Natives’

6 February 2017

Boundless Theatre Artistic Director Rob Drummer today announces the full company for the UK première of ‘Natives’, a new play by Glenn Waldron. Previously Company of Angels, Boundless Theatre produces exhilarating new theatre in the UK in conversation with Europe. Drummer directs Ella Purnell (A), Fionn Whitehead (B), and Manish Gandhi (C) in the production which opens at the Southwark Playhouse on 31 March, with previews from 29 March, and runs until 22 April.

Director: Rob Drummer
Designer: Amelia Jane Hankin
Movement: John Ross
Video Design: Cate Blanchard
Lighting: Zoe Spurr
Sound Design: Father.

About ‘Natives’

“Where are the grown-ups to do something, where are the grown-ups in this story?”

Three countries. Three teenagers. One average, life-altering day.

A young man battles with feelings of love and violence. Another is stuck with the image of someone being pushed from a rooftop. And a girl must choose between her friends and her conscience.

‘Natives’ is a rallying cry to a generation of unlikely heroes and celebrates coming of age online in a chaotic world.

Glenn Waldron

Glenn Waldron is a London-based playwright and writer. A former magazine editor and journalist, Glenn was Editor of i-D magazine and his feature writing has appeared in the New York Times, the Guardian, the Independent, Vogue, W magazine, and other publications. His first play Forever House premiered at the Drum, Theatre Royal Plymouth and his work has since been performed in Germany, Norway, the Netherlands and the USA. Upcoming productions include ‘The Here And This And Now’ at TRP and ‘End of the Pie’r at Hackney Showroom. Glenn also lectures in journalism and pop culture at the University of the Arts London.

Ella Purnell

Ella Purnell plays A. She is making her professional stage debut. She was one of Screen International Stars of Tomorrow 2010. For film, she will appear in the forthcoming ‘Churchill’, her credits include Miss Peregrine’s ‘Home for Peculiar Children’, ‘Never Let me Go’, ‘Maleficen’t, ‘Intruders’ and ‘Kick Ass 2’.

Fionn Whitehead

Fionn Whitehead plays B. He is making his professional stage debut. He was one of Screen Internationals Stars of Tomorrow 2016. For television his credits include ‘Him’; and for film, he will appear in the forthcoming Christopher Nolan’s ‘Dunkirk’ and ‘The Children Act’.

Manish Gandhi

Manish Gandhi plays C. He was included in the British Council’s 2016 global list of 33 cultural influencers from around the world promoting freedom and equality. For theatre his credits include ‘Now We Are Here’ (Young Vic), ‘Brown Shakespeare’ (Efua Theodora Sutherland Drama Studio, Legon-Accra), Rizwan (FTII, Pune), ‘Limbo and Cock’ (National Centre of Performing Arts, Mumbai). For television, ‘Rides upon the Storm’, ‘Judwa Raja’ and ‘Na Bole Tum’; and for film, ‘That Transient Interval’, ‘Chai Shai Biscuits’ and ‘Rizwaan’.

Rob Drummer

Rob Drummer joined Boundless Theatre in July 2016 as Artistic Director. He previously worked as co-director on the company’s production of Sense by Anja Hilling at the Academy of Live and Recorded Arts (ALRA), alongside Andrea Ferran. He was a mentor to emerging playwrights from the UK, Germany, Netherlands and Norway on the European Writers’ Lab component of the company’s Theatre Café Festival. Prior to becoming Artistic Director of Boundless Theatre he was Associate Dramaturg at the Bush Theatre where he ran the Literary Department, responsible for all playwriting work including the commissioning and development of new plays for production. He has established ongoing partnerships with Playwrights of New York (PoNY), delivered projects with Kudos Film & Television and established a partnership with Drama Centre London and Oberon Books on the ‘Student Guide To Writing: Playwriting’. Before joining the Bush Drummer was the first Literary Manager for HighTide Festival Theatre where he supported the expansion of the festival, doubling the number of productions and for HighTide he also directed ‘Eisteddfod’, ‘Endless Poem’ and ‘Perish’. As a Dramaturg and Director he has worked with playwrights at theatres including the National Theatre, Hampstead Theatre, Bristol Old Vic, Contact, York Theatre Royal and Theatre503. He was one of the first recipients of an Artists’ International Development Fund from the Arts Council and British Council and spent time working in South Africa with playwrights and theatre makers at the Baxter and Market Theatres.


Father is a music composition and sound-design studio which works on the principle that sound and image should work in tandem. Founded by Joe Farley and Freddie Webb, Father uses a variety of approaches that bridge musicality and sound design for rich, provocative and emotive sonic landscapes.

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Company of Angels relaunches under new name Boundless Theatre

28 October 2016

New Artistic Director Rob Drummer today announces the relaunch of Company of Angels as Boundless Theatre along with his first production as Artistic Director – ‘Natives’ by Glenn Waldron which opens at Southwark Playhouse in March 2017.

On announcing the relaunch Rob Drummer said, “It’s with huge excitement that we today relaunch Company of Angels under its new name Boundless Theatre. We feel the word Boundless perfectly reflects our ambition to present bold, fearless and enterprising theatre without limits and to break down barriers to engagement and access. It also seems appropriate that as an international company, based in a post-Brexit UK, we choose a name that reflects our commitment to working with partners from all around the world. In light of this, I am delighted that my first production as Artistic Director – ‘Natives’ by Glenn Waldron – is a global story which follows three teenagers in three different continents.”

For fifteen years, Boundless Theatre has produced and toured new plays, nationally and internationally and created projects and experiences that young adult audiences share in. It nurtures and empowers the next generation of artists, brings plays, diverse perspectives and ideas from Europe and engages with a range of artistic forms beyond theatre-making.

Its award-winning productions have included ‘Hannah and Hanna’ (which toured to India, Malaysia and Phillipines), ‘Truckstop’, ‘Apples’ and in 2015, with the Young Vic and New Wolsey Theatre, it co-produced the critically acclaimed ‘World Factory’, developed by METIS.

Current Boundless Theatre programmes include a partnership with Théâtre National de Toulouse and Théâtre National de Belgique introducing 14–16 year olds to contemporary plays in translation, and a collaboration with Drama Centre London providing guidance to its MA Dramatic Writing students on how to write for young audiences. Over the course of the next year, Boundless Theatre will also work with an advisory group of 15–25 year olds who reflect the audience and artists it works with. This group will be engaged in every aspect of the company’s work and will be a vital influence on decisions that are made relating to programming, artistic development and the wider work of the company.

Since 2001, over 50 organisations, embassies, cultural institutes, trusts and foundation have funded Boundless Theatres’ work and between 2015 and 2016 it attracted over 5,000 audience members and participants, of which more than 10% were outside of the UK. All of this takes place with a core team of just two full-time and three part-time staff.

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Boundless Theatre announce new Artistic Director – Rob Drummer – and respond to EU Referendum Leave Result

27 June 2016

Following the news last week that British voters have opted to leave the European Union, Boundless Theatre looks to the future with the announcement of its new Artistic Director, Rob Drummer.

Rob joins Boundless Theatre from the Bush Theatre, where he has been Associate Dramaturg since 2013.

Rob’s appointment to the role will follow the departure of current Artistic Director, Teresa Ariosto, who relocates with her family to Aarhus, Denmark, after 15 years with the organisation.

The Boundless Theatre team and trustees are delighted to welcome Rob to his new role over the summer, especially as he has been a proactive and engaged member of the organisation for some time already.

He will join Zoë Lally (Executive Producer) in heading up the company for the next stage of its life. Zoë joined Boundless Theatre earlier this year from Greenwich & Lewisham Young People’s Theatre, where she rose to the position of Executive Director over 10 years with the organisation.

Incoming Artistic Director Rob Drummer says:

“I am overjoyed to have been asked by the board of Boundless Theatre to be their next Artistic Director and to lead the organisation forwards with real enthusiasm for making exhilarating theatre for young audiences. Whilst we as a country look ahead to a very different relationship with the EU, I am convinced more than ever that artistic collaboration across borders will guarantee the future sustainability of our culture.

Last week’s referendum result presents great challenges and of course real uncertainty but now is the time to strengthen our resolve and to ask big questions on stage, collaborate with artists and peers outside of the UK and champion the building of bridges to look to the future together with curiosity.

I believe we have the unique opportunity to reflect the voice of a new generation of diverse artists and audiences and to better represent the full breadth of experiences in this country, across Europe and throughout the world.  Now is the time to interrogate what it means to be a young person today and for Boundless Theatre to make shareable theatre that enables and energises conversation, collaboration and community.”

Outgoing Artistic Director Teresa Ariosto says:

“My 14 years at Company of Angels have been thrilling and full of excitement. It has been a privilege to be at its helm in various capacities over the years and to see it grow from a ‘two-person in a room’ operation into a successful and renowned company; a leader in its field nationally and a recognised influence internationally, spearheading European exchange in theatre for young people.

I am now off to a new adventure in Denmark and albeit sad to leave a company that has been my home for many years, I am delighted to hand over to Rob. He has a compelling and inspiring vision for the future and I am in no doubt that with him and Zoë at the helm, Company of Angels will go from strength to strength, moving forward in bold and inventive ways.”

Chair of Trustees, and Managing Director of Oberon Books Charles Glanville says:

“The board of trustees is delighted to have appointed Rob Drummer to this post. He brings a strong artistic vision, creates work of excellence and has a demonstrable passion for the company.  He is committed to taking Boundless Theatre forward with innovative work that will respond to the voices of all young people and communities from across the UK and Europe. We are positive that this will be the start of a new and exciting chapter for the company”

Three quarters of 18–24 year olds voted to remain within the EU, and while they will be grappling with last week’s referendum result, we celebrate the political engagement young people have demonstrated. Our message to them is that the arts can offer a way of connecting with a wider international community and Boundless Theatre is committed more than ever to creating and sharing in work that is relevant to all young people.

It is essential at this time of great uncertainty that arts organisations listen to and provide a voice to people from across the UK and offer a breadth of experiences and perspectives on stage. Many people will be questioning their place in the world and looking for a space to come together, we believe that space is an artistic one and look ahead to creating new work that is inclusive, innovative and champions big conversation.

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