Belfast Telegraph

Q&A: Anna Newell


The 46-year-old from Belfast is artistic director with Replay Theatre Company, whose quirky new play, A Boy and his Box, premieres at this year's Belfast Children's Festival.

So tell us about your new production at the Belfast Children's Festival

For the past three years, we have been involved with the festival and this year, we are putting on a play called A Boy and his Box, which is about creativity and imagination.

When the boy opens his box, he finds that it's empty and is really disappointed. Then he has an idea and transforms the box into different things using his imagination.

It's a fantastic show.

Have you always worked in children's theatre?

Before joining Replay, I was artistic director for the Centre for Excellence in the Creative and Performing Arts at Queen's University, where I was involved in some amazingly diverse

projects including putting on a performance in a secret apartment and getting doctors to dance.

I also helped develop an experimental dance theatre piece with students, using a medical ethics issue as a stimulus. It's one of the things I'm most proud of from my time at Queen's.

Did you always want to be a theatre director?

Yes, I wrote and directed my first play when I was seven, which sounds horribly precocious, but I've always been more excited by theatre than anything else.

I've worked in theatres in the UK and Ireland and also in America and Bosnia.

I was born in the south of England and when I was 12, my family moved up to Dundee. I moved back to England to go to university and after graduating, my first jobs were back in Scotland.

What brought you to Belfast, then?

Around 12 years ago, I was working with Michael Duke -- now artistic director of Tinderbox Theatre Company -- directing his award-winning play, Revenge, and was back and forth to Belfast all the time.

I just fell in love with the city and 10 years ago, decided to move over permanently. It was the best move I ever made!

And what do you do when not directing theatre shows?

My other passion is singing. In my spare time, I run Feile Women's Singing Group, which sprang from a group called Loadsaweeminsinging, which I set up in Dundee 20 years ago, and which is still going strong.

I ran the group for 10 years and the only thing I really missed here was singing, so I arranged for Loadsaweeminsinging to perform at Feile festival and hopefully, kickstart a similar project here.

It was a huge success and now Feile Women's Singing Group has about 70 members in total who meet every week. There are no auditions and everyone is welcome.


* A Boy and his Box is at the Lyric Theatre, Belfast, from Sunday to Tuesday. For details, visit or tel: 028 9024 3042


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