DEBORAH AYDON, executive director of the Liverpool Everyman and Playhouse, speaks to Laura Davis
WHETHER in press night chic or visiting the Everyman building site in fluorescent safety gear, Deborah Aydon is one of those people who seems always in control.
Behind the closed door of her office at the Playhouse she may be secretly railing at the gods of government arts funding or sighing at her huge to-do list, but in public she appears entirely calm – the composed, witty yin to artistic director Gemma Bodinetz’s theatrically impassioned yang.
The perfect team, anyone who has witnessed the rise of the two sister theatres since the two women took over in 2003 would surely conclude.
Over the past nine years, they have returned to producing high quality in-house shows, launched the careers of exciting new Liverpool playwrights, expanded the youth theatre, tempted back celebrated alumni including Pete Postlethwaite, David Morrissey and Jonathan Pryce, cast Sex and the City star Kim Cattrall as Cleopatra, begun a £28m Everyman rebuild, reopened the Playhouse Studio and toured work as far as the US and Australia.
Just this week, they announced that their Oscar-nominated co-production Ghost Stories will be opening at Moscow’s Yauza Palace.
Aydon’s love of theatre was not easily won. Born in Dundee, she moved to Oxfordshire at the age of three – a convenient location both for Stratford’s Royal Shakespeare Company and London’s West End.
As a teenager she was taken on regular theatre trips by her father, who had in turn seen his first shows at the Liverpool Playhouse while growing up in Chester.
It took a while for his passion to hook his daughter, but when he did it stuck firm.
“The play that really clicked for me was at the Royal Court, called Class Enemy, about a bunch of very rebellious school kids.
“I was 14 and a 19-year-old Phil Daniels was in it, who was my bad boy crush at the time. It knocked my socks off that something as visceral and political and sweary could be on a stage.”
In her final term at the University of Kent, with her French and Film Studies degree almost completed, Aydon visited the careers department where she picked up a leaflet that said “whatever you do don’t leave this until your final year”.
She completed a psychometric test that offered her job options including banking, accountancy, social work, air cabin crew and arts administration. The latter seemed the best fit.
“I did know there was such a thing,” she explains.
“When I was a kid my dad was very involved in the establishment of Chipping Norton Theatre, created by an amazing woman called Tamara Malcolm and her husband John in an old Salvation Army citadel.
“That’s where I got to see backstage and just sit and marvel at Tamara, who had been in Peter Brook’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream and was hugely exotic, grew up in Paris, trained at Rada and had landed like an alien spacecraft in this little Cotswold market town.
“I was 11 or 12 and I felt like I knew a secret that other people didn’t know.”
After graduation, she took a £2-per-hour job as a press and marketing officer for the Canterbury Festival where one of her tasks was to dress the city in posters, bunting and banners. It took her the entire summer to arrange and they all blew away in the 1987 hurricane a few days before the festival began.
Fast-forward 16 years, including an eight year spell as the Bush Theatre’s general manager, and, firmly ensconced in her role as executive producer of Dublin’s Rough Magic Theatre Company, Aydon saw an advertisement for the two positions of executive and artistic directors of the Liverpool Everyman and Playhouse.