Visible is led by founder and playwright Sonja Linden, and supported by an entrepreneurial team and board of trustees.
Sonja Linden | Founder / Artistic Director
Playwright Sonja Linden co-founded ViSiBLE in 2013, inspired by the wealth of talent amongst Britain’s older actors.
Working in tandem with her co-artistic director, leading theatre and movement director Sue Lefton, she gathered together a group of culturally diverse professional older performers, and thus began the journey of the company and its first show. Over a period of two years, Sonja and Sue led workshops inspired by the personal and family life stories of the actors, a hugely exciting and rewarding experience that culminated in the creation of Visible’s unique first work, Who Do We Think We Are? co-created with Sue and the acting ensemble.
Her ambition is to continue to create new work that offers strong roles for older actors, challenging audiences to re-evaluate what it is to be older in our society today. Her most recent piece for the company, Roundelay (2017) was about love and sex in older age, inspired by the structure – and scandal – of Viennnese playwright Arthur Schnitzler’s La Ronde.
Before founding Visible, Sonja’s focus was on stories of displacement and exile, drawing on the life experiences of her writing clients at Freedom from Torture, where she worked as writer in residence from 1997 – 2004. Here she set up Write to Life a creative and testimonial writing project for victims of torture and persecution, a writing programme that continues to flourish today. This led to her formation of iceandfire theatre in 2003 as a platform for stories of human rights.
Her plays for iceandfire include: Welcome to Ramallah, co-written with Adah Kay, Arcola Theatre and York Theatre Royal (2008), Compass Theatre, San Diego (2009); Crocodile Seeking Refuge, Lyric Hammersmith and national tour (2005-6); I Have Before Me a Remarkable Document Given to Me by a Young Lady from Rwanda, Finborough Theatre and national tour (2003-4), BBC World Service Radio (2004) and U.S. tour (2005-8).
Her documentary plays for iceandfire include: On A Clear Day You Can See Dover, Wilton’s Music Hall and national tour (2010); Palestine Monologues, national tour; Asylum Monologues, (national tour); Asylum Dialogues, Tricycle Theatre and national tour.
Other work includes The Strange Passenger, Paines Plough, Battersea Arts Centre and national tour; The Jewish Daughter, sequel to Brecht’s The Jewish Wife, New End Theatre; Call Me Judas, Paines Plough, Finborough; and, Present Continuous, Edinburgh Festival, and BBC Radio 4.
Sheena Khanna | Producer
Sheena Khanna is an Independent Producer and Project Manager working in Contemporary Performance and Theatre.
Since 2015, Sheena has been Assistant Producer to renowned self-identifying Disabled Choreographer Claire Cunningham, working on projects touring in the UK and internationally. Sheena Produces for performance-maker Sarah Blanc and recently managed projects for artist LaJohnJoseph, the commissioning programme Unlimited (ArtsAdmin), and The Place.
Before producing, Sheena held positions at Arts Council England for over 3 years in the National team, London Theatre team and International Team. After ACE, she travelled and worked in Asia before joining Chisenhale Dance Space as Associate Producer for Education.
Claire French | Programme Director*
* Claire is currently on leave while finishing her PhD in the department of Theatre and Performance at the University of Warwick.
Claire is a theatre maker and researcher who works on the margins between applied and professional theatre, the first as a researcher and facilitator, and the latter as dramaturg, creative producer and programmer. She is currently a Commonwealth Scholar and PhD Candidate at the University of Warwick, focusing at the intersections of sociolinguistics and performance and interested in language use in devised performance processes.
Collaborations with ViSiBLE include Roundelay (2017), The Wardrobe Project (2016) and Who Do We Think We Are? (2014). Other recent UK-based projects include theatre workshops with refugees at Evelyn Oldfield Foundation (2014) and Housed by David Watson, Old Vic Community Company (2014). Prior to this, Claire lived and worked in both Germany and Australia, with her most prominent role as director of Perth’s amphitheatre bamBOO, where she programmed and produced 3 years of interdisciplinary arts festivals including the highly successful Eat my Monologue with writing by Andrew Bovell, Tom Holloway and Damian Millar and in concert with directors including Matthew Lutton.
Previous training includes London’s Royal Central School of Speech and Drama (MA Applied Theatre, distinction), the Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts and University of Notre Dame (BA Theatre Studies).*
ViSiBLE associate artists
Mike Alfreds | Director
Described by Ian McKellen as one of the three best directors in the country, Mike Alfreds has been called a true master of the ensemble.
Born in London, Mike trained as a director first at the American Theatre Wing in New York, then from 1957-60 in the Theatre Department of Carnegie Mellon. During those years, he directed seasons of musicals and operas in summer stock in Kennebunkport. After graduating, he directed for Theatre West, Tucson and from 1961-62, he was artistic director of the Cincinnati Playhouse-in-the-Park. Back in the UK, he taught at LAMDA, the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art in London from 1965-70. From 1970-1975, he worked in Israel as artistic director of the Khan Theatre in Jerusalem. He also directed plays for the Cameri Theatre in Tel Aviv, Bimot theatre, the Haifa Municipal Theatre and Beersheva Theatre.
He returned to the UK in 1975 where he founded and was artistic director of Shared Experience until 1985. He directed for the Royal National Theatre between 1985 and 1988. From 1991-1999, he was director of the Cambridge Theatre Company renamed Method and Madness. In 2001 and 2002, he directed for Shakespeare's Globe and in 1994, for the Royal Shakespeare Company. As well as the USA and Israel, he has worked abroad in Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Germany, Norway, France, Italy, Mongolia and China.
He has translated the texts of several of his productions and has also specialised in the adaptation of novels and stories for the stage and has developed techniques for storytelling in the theatre. He has written two books on his working methods: Different Every Night, which deals with his rehearsal processes for plays, and Then What Happens, concerning his methods of working on adaptations. He has generally divided his career between directing and teaching acting and directing.
Alfreds is known for his special method of working with actors, inspired amongst others by the principles of Constantin Stanislavski and Rudolf Laban, with emphasis on physical work, scrupulous analysis of text, spontaneity and interaction with others during the play in minimalistic productions.
"I make them forge the work on the floor. They have to discover by doing. Get them free with the text so they never do it the same way twice."
Annabel Arden | Director
Annabel Arden’s distinguished career encompasses opera, theatre and broadcasting as well as acting and devising new work. In 1983 Annabel was a co-founder of the renowned Theatre de Complicité.
In the 2016/17 season, Annabel directed a new production of Carmen - the inaugural production of the newly formed Grange Festival and her new staging of Turandot for Opera North received huge acclaim, and she will recreate this staging for the Teatro Sao Carlos, Lisbon in the 2017/18 season, and for Opera North, Annabel will direct new productions of Osud (Janacek) and L’enfant et les sortilèges.
In the 2015/16 season, Annabel Arden directed an acclaimed new production of Andrea Chénier for Opera North - winner of “Best Opera Production” at the Manchester Theatre Awards - and the first new production of Il barbiere di Siviglia at the Glyndebourne Festival in over 30 years.
In the United Kingdom, Annabel has directed Cafe Kafka and The Commission for the Royal Opera House; L’elisir d’amore, Gianni Schicci and The Miserly Knight for the Glyndebourne Festival; The Rake’s Progress for English National Opera and La bohème for Welsh National Opera. She has enjoyed a long association with Opera North, for whom she has directed La Traviata, Die Zauberflöte, The Cunning Little Vixen and Il ritorno d'Ulisse in patria. Abroad she has directed The Cunning Little Vixen for the Gran Teatre del Liceu, Barcelona; L’elisir d’amore for the Houston Grand Opera; Beethoven’s Leonore in New York, London and Salzburg; Faust in Lucerne; and Der Zwerg for the Maggio Musicale, Firenze and the Teatro Regio, Torino. Annabel has directed plays for the National Theatre, Royal Court, Almeida Theatre, BBC, Sydney Theatre Company and for Theatre de Complicité of which she remains an Associate Artist. Annabel Arden graduated from Cambridge University, and trained with Lecoq in Paris.
Sue Lefton | Director & Movement Director
As one of the foremost Movement Directors in Britain, Sue Lefton's extensive career spanning forty years has been mainly in live theatre although she has worked widely in film, including the award-winning Elizabeth with Cate Blanchett and The Libertine with John Malkovich and Johnny Depp.
Sue trained first as a dancer at the Royal Ballet School and Rambert, and then as an actress at The Central School of Speech and Drama. She went on to study with Jacques Lecoq in Paris and with Belinda Quirey, the acknowledged authority on dance history.
As a movement director, she has worked with all the major companies in the country, including: The Royal Court, The Royal National Theatre and the Royal Shakespeare Company, where she worked extensively in the 80s and 90s, working for over fifteen years on theatre productions at Stratford. She has also worked extensively in opera. Her work as movement director includes: The Captain of Köpenick (Adrian Noble, National Theatre), Simon Boccanegra (Adrian Noble Rome…), Alcina (Vienna State Opera), The Magic Flute (Glyndebourne) Macbeth for the Metropolitan Opera in New York directed by Adrian Noble.
Her work as a theatre director includes: A Dolls House, Miss Julie (New End Theatre), Lady from the Sea (Bridewell Theatre), Dancing at Lughnasa, The Duchess of Malfi, Blood Wedding, The Caucasian Chalk Circle, Death of a Salesman, Betrayal, Family Voices, the Bay at Nice, Our Country's Good, The Winter's Tale (Mercury Theatre, Colchester), Welcome to Ramallah by Sonja Linden and Adah Kay (Arcola Theatre).
Frederique Nahmani | Actor & Producer
Drawing upon a dual creative and business background, Frederique is a performer, writer, producer, strategy and business development executive with 15 years of international experience at companies including Liberty Global, Radical Media and Johannes Leonardo.
Corporate work included planning TV channel launches, developing cross-media and TV projects and managing brand campaigns for Google and other clients. Frederique founded Out of Line productions in Paris and New York to produce independent film and theatre. Theatre productions: Mauritius (Urban Stages), Brilliant Traces (Urban Stages), Cloud Tectonics (45 Bleecker) The Real Thing (Soho Rep), Rosencrantz And Guildenstern Are Dead (45 Bleecker), Miss Julie (Algonquin), and Les Bonnes Manières (Manufacture Des Abbesses, creation of The Norman Conquests in France). Film: ‘Universal Language’, winner of six awards at Anchorage International Film Festival, Macon, White Sands, Emerge and Hell’s Half Mile. She trained as a performer at the Nissan Nativ Acting Studio, the Lee Strasberg Theatre Institute and is a graduate from Sciences Po. Paris and Columbia Business School in New York.
Emily Gottlieb | Chair
Emily is Chief Executive at the National Opera Studio. Before that she worked at Royal Opera House within Organisational Development, in a newly created role to support their artistic and strategic vision through people. She won the first ever Performing Arts Fellowship on the Clore Leadership Programme (2012-13), before which she was Stage Manager for Opera at the ROH for 13 years.
‘I am proud to be associated with Visible, a new company with the commitment and potential to make a real difference to how we view ageing and older people, through creating excellent and thought-provoking professional work for the stage.’
David Metz | Treasurer
David is an expert on ageing, formerly Director of AgeNet, a Foresight project; a formerly visiting professor at the Centre for Ageing and Public Health, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine; author of the book Older, Richer, Fitter, published by Age Concern; and formerly adviser to UnLtd’s Ageing Challenge Programme.
‘I am sure that keeping active and engaged in later life is good for health and well-being, and I’m pleased to be associated with Visible Theatre Ensemble which will help both the company and the audiences enjoy life to the full.’
James Hadley is Executive Director of Musical Theatre Network – a strategic organisation supporting and creating opportunities for new musical theatre in the UK. Prior to his current role, he worked in the London Theatre team at Arts Council England from 2008 until 2015, where he became aware of Visible’s work from the company’s first workshop and thereafter advised them on several funding applications. James has a background in directing and producing theatre, including in New Zealand, where he also programmed BATS Theatre for four years, one of the country’s leading venues for new writing and supporting emerging theatremakers.
‘I believe Visible’s work occupies an important, unique position in Britain’s theatre landscape – leading the way for further achievements in this area, and its work is rich in socio-political as well as creative value. I’m pleased to be part of championing and nurturing Visible’s work with older professional actors.’
Lucy has worked in the cultural and voluntary sectors for nearly two decades, with past experience including senior roles at Arts Council England, British Refugee Council and the House of Lords. Lucy was Director of Apples and Snakes, England’s leading organisation for performance poetry and spoken word, from 2010 to October 2015, when she left to become Chief Executive at Wikimedia UK. Lucy is passionate about participation, diversity and equality, and believes that these values are entirely compatible – indeed, essential – to producing high quality, engaging and innovative art.
Dr. Caryn Solomon
Caryn is a Social Psychologist who has consulted and taught in the fields of Organisational Change and Leadership for over 30 years. Drawing on her early background in music and theatre, she has developed unique team and leader development processes for many organisations internationally, utilising storytelling, psychodrama and other creative, experiential learning processes. At London School of Economics she teaches Organisation Development and she is a founding and core faculty member of the Tutu African Leadership Institute.
‘What an honour to be associated with Visible – working with well-versed experts, making innovative, compelling theatre that challenges, reframes and breathes new life into old views about ageing.’