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Thinking outside
THE BOX

Photographs by Sebastian Nevols

When actress Gala Gordon and producer Isabella Macpherson established Platform Presents they wanted to redress the balance in theatre. They weren’t expecting a pandemic to make some changes of its own. Nick Curtis meets the women pivoting to transform London’s West End

While London theatre has had a dreadful year, Gala Gordon and Isabella Macpherson, the impossibly polished and well-connected producers behind Platform Presents, have thrived. Two months into the first lockdown they were among the first to pivot to streaming, snapping up the suddenly un-busy Jenna Coleman, David Morrissey and Denise Gough for a filmed reading of Tom Stoppard’s A Separate Peace.

This February they minted the most convincing hybrid so far of stage and screen with the online production Good Grief, starring Sian ‘Fleabag’s sister’ Clifford and Nikesh Patel. ‘While it’s been a terrible time for the industry, it’s been an opportunity for us as we can be quite fleet of foot and see opportunities,’ says Macpherson, 47.

They’re developing a film written by actress Tuppence Middleton and starring Juliet Stevenson, plus two TV series, and have ‘been speaking to someone who owns quite a few West End theatres’ about a play that’s hush-hush but ‘ready to go’ once lockdown ends.

Even the Playwright’s Prize they founded in 2019 bucked the trend. In 2020 they received 200 scripts: this year, two weeks before the April deadline, they were up to 320, from all over the world, 70 per cent of them written by women. Not bad for a company set up to nurture new, and particularly female, talent. ‘It’s not that we don’t want to work with men,’ says Macpherson. ‘We just want to redress the balance slightly.’

“You can tell the first time you read somebody’s work whether they are true to themselves, brave and bold, thinking outside the box”

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“I have… not really wisdom, just experience. Gala looks at things completely differently but we can both learn from each other”

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“[theatre] is where I meet people, where I learn, where I lose myself”

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