So glad to hear that, like Great Aunt Cecily, you are confident that Santa is female. There are lots of things I’d like her to help theatre deliver next year to all of us – here are just some of them.
To enable us to be in a theatre or a found space with a full audience. To hear their pre-show burble and the rapt silence when the show begins. But that will need patience. Even though vaccinations have started those full theatres are still a long way off. Safety before speed.
For the government to be clear about its advice to theatres. You can’t turn theatre on and off like a tap. It is cruel to encourage theatres and producers and freelance artists to put time, effort and money into opening shows in any part of the country, but then close them down without any support when rising infections necessitate it. A government backed insurance scheme would help enormously with this, and it is going to be needed well into 2021.
For all freelancers to be properly paid and properly valued by the organisations that employ them. If we can pay some artistic directors six figure sums we can pay and treat freelancers well. A theatre won’t immediately collapse without an AD, but try putting on any performance without the Front of House staff or stage management.
For British theatre to become more international, not less international in the wake of leaving the EU. British theatre has been immeasurably improved by over the last 40 years by its increasing exposure to outside influences and the cross fertilisation that brings. Brexit, and our lack of access to Europe’s Creative Fund, threatens that, so we must redouble efforts to invite the outside world in and find other ways of collaborating. Perhaps digital can help?
More creative high streets – think about the high streets in big cities which over the coming year are likely to remain empty. How can theatre help to reanimate them?
Real recognition that creating a more open, accessible and diverse theatre is a process that never stops. You have to keep working at it. Some UK theatres have yet to show any real commitment to the task. If you don’t dismantle the barriers, it rather suggests that you actually want to keep some people out.
A digital future – I hope theatre understands that digital wasn’t just for the pandemic, and that theatre has plenty to gain if it keeps experimenting, because the reach is so much greater and the access so much wider.
Festivals that aren’t just showcases but which are genuinely local, connected and embedded in local communities, and that offer development pathways for artists. It's time for theatre to stop festivals to shop for talent, and to start develop new pathways that will help all not just those who can pay to play.
Theatre that listens more, and tries to lead less – I always like that quote from Fun Palace founder, Stella Duffy: “I’m not leading, I’m supporting other people to lead.”
Gender neutral toilets in all theatres.
Better snacks – Great Aunt Cecily is very partial to a Twiglet. Oh, and cups of tea in the in the theatre after 6pm. Lots of theatre bars can’t rustle up a hot drink after daylight hours but in an industry with such a widespread alcohol problem, it would be good to provide as many alternatives to wine as possible.