Check in with ...Sonia Friedman
The matriarch of British theatre, producer Sonia Friedman, pulls back the curtain on her favourite travel memories for BA’s 100th birthday.
The producer behind Broadway and West End knock-outs, Book of Mormon, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child and more, it seems everything Sonia Friedman touches turns to theatre gold. Recently taking the top spot as The Stage’s most influential theatre producer, Friedman adds to her OBE, Tony and Oliver Awards with a new accolade - a deserved spot in the BA100.
Which country most sticks out in your memory?
My entire trip to India was a sensory and emotional ambush. The smells, the colours, the noise, the heat. Everyday felt like an out-of-body experience. That trip, witnessing such an immensely different culture to my own, made me appreciate the wonder of the world we live in.
What has been your favourite travel experience?
Taking a train from Tallinn, capital of Estonia, to St. Petersburg in the middle of a snowstorm. I felt like I was in Dr. Zhivago! I’m part-Russian, so when I arrived in St. Petersburg and saw the breath-taking beauty of the city covered in snow, I immediately felt a cultural connection.
What is your go-to travel hack or packing tip?
It’s a simple one, but ensuring all my creams and lotions are pre-packed in their 100ml bottles and containers, and all neatly put into their see-through plastic bag before I get to the airport. It removes any unnecessary stress at security.
“I grew up in a house and a family full of curiosity; I like to think that our house was like our country.”
Where is on your bucket list and why?
My sister and her husband tell me that I must go to Marrakech. They’ve been back to the same place a number of times over the last few years and, apparently, the mud baths there are amazing. Meanwhile, my fiancée keeps badgering me to go to Beirut with him. He spent some time there recently and came back completely beguiled.
Where are your favourite places in the UK?
A cottage that I stay at in Hampshire, only an hour from central London, which is surrounded by blissful lakes and meadows. Bovey Castle in Devon, too. It originally belonged to WH Smith, who, obsessed with castles, had one built when his stationery empire took off. Now it's a wonderful hotel with an incredible spa. Lastly, the Isle of Mull during the Mendelssohn on Mull Festival - founded by my late father - when every part of the island is filled with music.
“My fiancée and I wander round the lake at Victoria Park and have breakfast at a gorgeous Italian café on the corner. That, to me, is the definition of bliss.”
What does being British mean to you?
It means being open and interested in other people. We're a little island and so we have to look outward to the rest of the world. I grew up in a house and a family full of curiosity; I like to think that our house was like our country.
Where is your favourite London hangout?
Sunday is my day away from work, so my fiancée and I like to take our dog, Buddy, to Victoria Park, East London. We wander round the lake and have breakfast at a gorgeous Italian café on the corner. That, to me, is the definition of bliss.
And for a spot of culture?
Walk around the West End, stop at the first theatre that catches your eye, and then walk in. The Almeida Theatre in Islington is on a roll at the moment under the direction of the wonderful Rupert Goold.
What does it mean to be a BA100 hero?
I've travelled all my life for work, and I've seen a lot of the world thanks to flights with BA. If the BA100 represent those people who travel frequently, connecting the little dots of all the world’s various countries and doing good as they go, then I'm thrilled to be part of the club!
What is your favourite memory of travelling BA?
Looking out of the window the other week as we passed over Greenland. You could only see white for miles. It’s easy to forget that we live in such a beautiful world. The way we behave should reflect how beautiful it is.
Who were your favourite playwrights growing up?
Harold Pinter was a complete hero to me. His vision, built completely on the complexity of the silence between his lines of dialogue, redefined British theatre. The same is true of Tom Stoppard. I grew up watching Tom’s fearlessness in bringing complex philosophy to the stage. Equally, Caryl Churchill, who restaged our expectations of what a female playwright could accomplish in British theatre.