nabokov was formed in Spring 2001 by James Grieve, George Perrin and Ric Mountjoy through a shared passion for producing new writing for the stage.
Our very first project was a shorts night held in Sheffield. With the drinks flowing freely, a capacity crowd watched a late-night theatre fest featuring short plays from Van Badham, Jamie Harper and Pip Nixon.
In June 2001, we produced the British Premiere of Van Badham’s Kitchen at Sheffield’s Crucible Studio Theatre. “The first time The Crucible has staged an Australian drama in its 30-year history,” noted The Sheffield Star. Our entire company comprised professional debutants. We published the Kitchen script and commissioned an original score.
nabokov again presented Kitchen in 2002 at the world’s largest festival of theatre - The Edinburgh Festival Fringe – where it attracted almost unanimous critical acclaim, received a host of stars and Critics Choice selections, appeared at the Pick of the Fringe showcase and played to sell-out crowds.
Our first Fringe experience was captured on camera by documentary maker Lucy Purdon for Listen Films. The Kitchen Diaries premiered at the following year’s festival.
Kitchen was offered a London transfer to The Old Red Lion Theatre for a four week run in spring 2003, where it sat alongside two new Van Badham plays - Capital and Morning on a Rainy Day - in a triple bill titled Bedtime for Bastards. “Plays that voice a generation’s anger,” hailed Time Out.
We presented Bedtime for Bastards again at The Edinburgh Festival Fringe 2003, where Capital’s savagely satirical take on US imperialism caused a storm sufficient to prompt a US Embassy statement denying it had any basis in fact. “This play is a wonderful antidote for the dangerous, empty-headed and jargon riddled times we live in,” said The Scotsman.
Edinburgh 2003 also saw us stage the World Premiere of Van Badham’s explosive new play about terrorism, Camarilla, in a co-production with The Old Red Lion Theatre. It scored us another clutch of great reviews, Critics Choice selections and an appearance at the Pick of the Fringe showcase. “Stunning,” said Johann Hari in a double page feature in The Independent. “Exhilarating,” praised The Times. “It would be hard to imagine a more relevant new play on the fringe than this,” said The Stage. Camarilla transferred to The Old Red Lion in September 2004.
After three years of funding productions from our own pockets, we were awarded Arts Council England funding to commission Van Badham's next play, Nikolina, which previewed in Colchester, Bedford and Cambridge before its World Premiere at The Pleasance, Edinburgh, in August 2004. It received a commendation from the Amnesty International Freedom of Expression Award, collected a string of four and five star reviews and was chosen as one of the highlights of the Festival by The List magazine. "Flawless," said The Stage. "Proving that political drama does have a place in the 21st century," lauded The List. "Beautifully crafted, tremendously slick, deliciously controversial… not for the faint hearted, but for the huge hearted," praised Three Weeks. Nikolina embarked on tour in Spring 2005 and played in Bath, Norwich, Cambridge, Luton and Canterbury.
Meanwhile, shorts has evolved as a showcase for new plays, monologues, music, poetry, comedy, films and anything else we like the look of. Following successful events in Sheffield and Liverpool, shorts took up residence at The Old Red Lion Theatre, London, in early 2004, where it continues to run every month.
We’ve also given rehearsed readings to several new plays, including the first ever staging of Terre Haute by Edmund White – one of America’s greatest living writers.