I have a confession. It is not a widely kept secret, I tweeted about it the other day, but it is a confession all the same. I have not seen any theatre this year. I’ve read plays, watched trailers, even attended Devoted and Disgruntled in Birmingham (more on that later) but have I seen any theatre? Nope. I can hear one half of the industry gasping in mock horror and the other shrugging their shoulders.
I remember four or five years ago when I was out at least four nights a week seeing theatre because it felt like my life depended on it. I had to see the latest show at the Young Vic or Camden People’s Theatre and I swear I spent most of my formative theatre-understanding days hidden in a room at Battersea Arts Centre. At the time I remember artist Dan Bye saying to me the urge to see work will change until you’d much rather spend a night at home than watch another piece of theatre. Well, it’s true Dan. 2016 is the year I gave up theatre.
Joking aside, taking time out of seeing work – a forced sense of distance – is making me a better producer. Focusing on the work we’ve got in development as Making Room or spending time being your stay-at-home twenty-something London-living guy is a good thing. Like going on holiday (I’ve actually booked one this year and will be going regardless if I get offered a job like running the National Theatre – I shall get some sun) taking time out of seeing theatre refreshes the senses and refocuses the mind. I challenge you to try it. You’ll pick the shows you go and see based on smarter, more determined and researched choices. You’ll also save your wallet a bashing, which can only be a good thing at the start of the year.
I’ve been enjoying Rachel Briscoe recently. She’s just left Ovalhouse as co-director of theatre and wrote this fantastic piece on thinking around what our cultural buildings are. Here’s a quote that particularly struck home for me:
But maybe everyone in buildings is living out their perfect version of the world – a world where no one can bother them (no demanding artists or difficult audience members), where they get to have meetings which make them feel powerful and successful, where their ‘community’ can exist as a kind of theoretical concept that gives them a warm and fuzzy feeling.
The more I interact with buildings as a producer, programmer and theatre-goer the more I can’t help but think we’re doing it wrong. Then I read Rachel’s response and actually what I’m experiencing is someone else’s vision of what a building should be, funny that.
Devoted and Disgruntled has come and gone. First time it was outside of London, thank heavens for that. One conversation that got my mind whirling was The London Conundrum. Should we all move out of London and live in other places, investing our art and money and time in communities that might just appreciate us more than the stoney-faced Londoner? Okay, that’s my take on the conversation but it is one I keep coming back to.
Thinking on a national level is one of our commitments as Making Room. It helps that Leo spent many years in Lancaster and I’m craving to do more outside London. So here’s an invitation: I don’t know what it is like to truly make theatre or art or whatever outside of London, can I experience that journey with you? (As a side note: We’re working with a bunch of artists who are based outside of the M25 – hurrah! So watch this space)
The shows I’m holding back on seeing but really, really want to see at the moment are:
Herons by Simon Stephens at Lyric Hammersmith (here’s a ticket deal)
Give Me Your Love by Ridiculusmus at Battersea Arts Centre
Richard III by Faction at New Diorama Theatre
Other good reads on theatre:
Scottee on Artist’s pay in 2016
Hawks in the Wings’ look at Northern Stage’s financials “surviving, not thriving”
Until next time…
Image by Craig Sunter