My Clerkenwell Life – Alan Brodie
An experienced theatrical agent, Alan Brodie represents writers, directors and composers, as well as the estates of famous names who wrote for the stage. He talks about the dramatic highlights of his career, as well as life and work in Clerkenwell.
How would you describe your work as a theatrical agent?
I do regard myself as a literary agent – but one who specialises in dramatic rights. The difference is that, unlike with book deals, when a play deal is made, the work just begins. Theatre is a collaborative medium and depends very much on the creative team. It’s the same principal though – managing, advising and protecting the client’s interests.
You recently marked 20 years of your firm – what have you learned over two decades?
What is obvious is that plays and writers can move in and out of favour – and that goes as well for the work of writers no longer with us. Trends can change quickly, so it’s important to have young agents working in the agency who can use my experience and knowledge of the back catalogue, but at the same time they have their fingers on the pulse of what is wanted in the industry.
Are there proud moments in the firm’s theatrical history?
When I see that we have two plays running concurrently at the National, as we did this last year, that is quite an achievement. A lot
of what I am proud of is when we go beyond what is normally part of the day-to-day work. So, organising and delivering the Terence Rattigan centenary, the naming of a West End theatre after Noël Coward, the exhibitions about Coward we produced in the United States were all real achievements.
Which productions are you currently excited about?
I am always excited by what is coming round the corner. So at the moment it’s the musical The Girls by Tim Firth and Gary Barlow, which opens at the Phoenix Theatre in February; and Noël Coward’s Present Laughter, which opens on Broadway in March with Kevin Kline in the lead role.
Clerkenwell is a little way from theatreland – why base yourself in Charterhouse Street?
I have been here for six years. I could say I was initially attracted by the restaurants or the atmosphere, but the honest answer is that I live by Sadler’s Wells and I wanted somewhere I could walk to work! As it happens it’s not far from theatreland – I can walk it in less than 20 minutes.
Do you enjoy the theatrical history of EC1?
My Clerkenwell theatre experience is mainly at Sadler’s Wells, whose history and traditions are fascinating. I love the connection between Sadler’s Wells and the Old Vic through that great impresario Lilian Baylis.
You represent the estates of Bertolt Brecht, Noël Coward and Terence Rattigan, among others. What are the challenges?
It’s a huge responsibility and a great honour. These great writers are not around any more, and it’s my job not only to make sure that their work continues to be done but also to protect their legacy and integrity.
What do you personally enjoy about working in Clerkenwell?
I love the atmosphere, the restaurants, the fact that I can walk anywhere. And I love the history – having Smithfield across the street as well as Charterhouse Square. It’s incredible to think about what was going on in the area hundreds of years ago.
Are there places you go to relax?
Home! Apart from that, I love to go to Sadler’s Wells and I really enjoy walking in the area. I am very lucky that my walk to work takes me through the Clerkenwell Historic Trail. I would definitely recommend the Museum of the Order of St John and a walk through Smithfield.
Where do you take your writers to lunch in the area?
There are so many, so no one place in particular. For work meetings, they have to be quiet. I try to go to all sorts of different places and one of the beauties of the area is the variety. I love Exmouth Market of course, though I miss the Ambassador – my all-time favourite restaurant.
Are there any sites in EC1 you think have theatrical potential?
Well, if it has to be developed I am hoping the new Smithfield development will have room for a theatre.
Are you at plays most nights – and do you have a favourite theatre?
Often three or four nights a week. The theatre is only as good as the show, so I will go wherever I need in search of a good one. Islington is right on my doorstep and blessed with a number of great theatres such as the Almeida. And we are in striking distance of the South Bank – I love Shakespeare’s Globe and going to the National. I have to say the Noël Coward Theatre is my favourite, but I am biased!