Visible is led by founder and playwright Sonja Linden, researcher Claire French and an entrepreneurial board of trustees.
Sonja Linden: Founder / Lead on Storytelling
Playwright Sonja Linden founded ViSiBLE in 2012, inspired by the wealth of talent amongst Britain’s older actors.
Working in tandem with 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. Working closely with Sue over a period of 2 years to elicit the personal and family life stories of the actors was a hugely exciting and rewarding experience, and led to 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.
Claire French: Lead on Research
Claire is a theatre maker and researcher who enjoys work 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
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.
Roger Winfield / Chair
During Roger’s career as a solicitor in private practice, he has advised charities and voluntary organisations. He has also acted as honorary legal adviser to a national charity and as a volunteer in legal advice centres.
‘I am delighted to have the opportunity to play an active part in supporting the exciting new venture that is Visible Theatre Ensemble. In addition to producing interesting work Visible Theatre Ensemble recognises the importance of using the invaluable experience that older actors bring to the theatre.’
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.
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.’
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.’
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.’
Chris, a former BBC radio presenter and award-winning television producer, is a consultant and trainer in media and communications skills. She has also been active in experimental theatre, education and arts administration. In her spare time, she works for an anti-racism charity and with asylum seekers and refugees.
‘As a fan of Visible’s work, it’s a privilege – and a pleasure – to be associated with the company and help it fulfil its ambitions. Visible not only challenges attitudes to age and ageing, but does so with great panache.’
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.’