In 2014, Brian Astbury and Paul Taylor had a wild idea over lunch in a busy café in London’s West End.
Brian founded South Africa’s legendary Space Theatre in 1972. It produced some of the Apartheid era’s greatest theatre and theatre practitioners who, 40 years later, are still in the forefront of theatre there. Brian went on to train students at Lamda, Mountview and East 15.
Paul was one of Brian’s students at Lamda in the late 1980s where he credits Brian as being the best tutor he ever had. Paul went on to work in Theatre, Film and TV, and is best known for being the first actor from the western world to star in a Chinese TV series, with way over 200,000,000 viewers per episode. In 2003 Paul set up Consider This UK, one of the UK’s leading Arts Marketing companies.
In 1990 Brian set up 'Arts Threshold' with graduating LAMDA students one year above Paul, including Julie Hesmondhalgh (Coronation Street), Stephen Moyer (True Blood), and RADA graduate, Rufus Norris (Director of the National Theatre). The company gave graduating students an important stepping stone into the industry and helped them establish themselves as employable actors, writers and directors.
Fast forward 24 years, sipping coffee and reminiscing, Brian and Paul came up with a truly unique idea. Why not take the concept of “Arts Threshold” and make it into a full time one year Practical Theatre Programme for those actors, writers and directors already in the profession or those who were self-starters, and give them the tools to take control of their own careers. They would learn how to set up their own theatre companies, devise their own work, market themselves, and leave with a fully-fledged production to take to the Edinburgh Festival and on tour.
In September 2015, some 10 months later, The Forge Initiative was born.