It is no secret that Civilian Theatre has long been troubled by the myopia and self-interest shown in the annual letter-writing campaigns to the Guardian and the Independent from the great-and-good decrying the scandalous cuts to Arts Council funding and how it will endanger the very lifeblood of the craft itself. Whilst Civilian Theatre is not by nature a callous man and, unsurprisingly, would love to see theatre funded to the hilt in this country – with regional theatres prosperous, village halls packed to the rafters with touring companies and every worthy project that supports a vulnerable group given the financial sustenance they desperately need, it also can’t help but feel if these people of letters are looking rather closer to home for where they feel the funding should be going.
Alongside the cuts, the dramatic rebalancing of Arts Council funding towards more sustainable projects is something that has slipped under the radar. There will always be the need to finance some projects that have great worth but are unlikely to ever be sustainable, but there are plenty of other companies who seem to have grown fat on the years of plenty and seem to have given little thought to what might happen when the tap is turned off.
So what has happened? I don’t see any great decrease in the quality of productions, I don’t see any great decrease in the number of productions, we seem to be in a mini-golden age of playwrights who have broken out of the long shadow cast by Mark Ravenhill, Sarah Kane et al; Nick Payne, Lucy Kirkwood and Lucy Prebble have all put forward plays that don’t look to the past and that engage with the events of our time – be it Enron, Quantum Physics or China. Are we perhaps seeing the emergence of playwrights who can write truly international plays in global times? Time will tell but these are the people that are moving forwards rather than looking backwards.
And for those companies that have the most part always scraped by; who do theatre for the passion and for the possibility of that break. Some no doubt, funding unsecured, have fallen by the wayside, or accepted their fate is to be a strong amateur company (and there is no shame in that whatsoever). And then there are the dynamic and the proactive; the ones that are utilising every avenue to raise money to put on their shows; who are embracing the modern world in search of funding; who realise that a thousand smaller voices can make as loud a noise as one large one.
Which brings us back to the point of this post. My attention was drawn to The Tragicomedy of Mac-Beth. I have no idea if its good, if it will be good or if it has legs but that isn’t going to stop me dipping my hand in my pocket. And why not? Instead of wasting £20 on 5 pints of beer (yes, thanks London), why not help someone realise their dream, feel good about yourself and experience that smug sense of self-satisfaction when you see yourself listed in the programme?
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NB: It’s probably worth noting that Civilian Theatre (other than giving money) is no way linked to this production, or any of the companies involved.