Theatre in Wales

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“The work of Theatr Clwyd should be regularly coming to town”

Theatre: The Talk in England

Hare on Workshops, Site-specific Theatre, Touring, Funding , The Guardian , July 5, 2018
Theatre: The Talk in England by Hare on Workshops, Site-specific Theatre, Touring, Funding On New Year's Day David Hare was given the space of 2800 words for a piece entitled “My Ideal Theatre.”

On workshops and readings: “Plays submitted will be read. This will be guaranteed. But out-loud readings will be extremely rare, and only with the writer’s consent. A young playwright complained to me recently that she had been commissioned to write a play for a well-known address.

“When she finished it, the artistic director said it needed a workshop. The dramatist thought it didn’t. The writer’s wishes were overruled and the workshop went ahead, evidence of nothing but the management’s bad faith. In some theatres, workshops and readings are regularly deployed as stalling devices by artistic directors who pretend they are interested in new plays, but who use uncertainty and hesitation in staging them as a means of extolling and abusing their power. At the Playhouse, workshops and readings will never be dangled as hurdles a writer has to jump.”

On site-specific productions: “If a director can produce a very strong argument, then she or he will be allowed to present a play away from the Playhouse. But this will not happen often. When Patrice Chereau staged In the Solitude of the Cotton Fields in a disused factory outside Paris, then the dust and the light made Koltès’s text sparkle.

Jerzy Grotowski’s use of an empty film studio for Stanisław Wyspiański’s play Akropolis added to the desolation of that extraordinary evocation of the concentration camps. But gimmicky stagings inside gasholders or behind supermarkets will be discouraged. There are sound democratic reasons for theatre usually taking place in spaces where everyone can see, hear, think and feel together.”

On Youth: “The artistic director will be under 30, because only the young can regenerate the form. The less contaminated he or she is by what is already thought to be good, the better. But, best case, she will want a sprinkling of classics – Schiller, Ibsen, O’Neill – so that new plays may be seen in the context of old, with the aim of both paying tribute to a tradition and advancing it.”

On employment and deployment: “The National has roughly twice as many employees as it had when it opened on the South Bank in 1976 in order to do fewer productions. Many of them never look up from their desks. They are forced to stare all day at computers, ticking boxes on forms sent to them by the Arts Council.”

On the RSC: “Les Misérables” turned subsidised theatre into a shouty seedbed.”

On Touring: “The abandonment of touring by our best-funded companies is a major scandal which goes unremarked year after year...The Ferryman, Consent, Ink and Mosquitoes should all be out on the road right now, so the whole country can see them. The work of Newcastle’s Live Theatre and Theatr Clwyd should be regularly coming to town.”

[Walesview: public funding is there to create a common cultural space. National Dance fulfils its remit by regularly going out on the road. So too the Torch. Clwyd, Sherman and National Theatre should be funded to create a common bonding cultural experience.]

What's It All For: “the effect of the Playhouse will be to cheer everyone up. No, it will not save lives, like a great hospital. But it will restore spirits, like a great sunset. It will be genuinely collaborative, proving to the country that things we do together have a quality all of their own. Most of all, it will express a trust in theatre itself as a unique form which does something profound that no other form can.

The Playhouse will not suck up to other disciplines in a desperate attempt to make itself trendy. It will use dance and music judiciously, as a way of reinforcing its own effects, but never to obliterate word and image. Nor will it ever allow itself to be reduced to a gibbering variation on galleried performance art. There will be no self-referential evenings of angst that neurotically question the value and nature of the form. It will be staffed by people who have confidence in that form, who love it, and who are, in the experience of their own lives, benefiting immeasurably from its special power.”

[Walesview: too obvious to mention. Audiences in Wales want to be enthralled by drama and comedy.]

Is the article to be agreed with? The answer is no, but agreement is not the point. It is sufficient, like theatre itself, that it be full-blooded, richly textured and felt. There is the core paradox of Hare. The satirist Craig Brown loves him as a target. As my review of his memoir put it “It is a truism of Hare that the state has been of kindness to the author who stridently dislikes it so much.” But “My Ideal Theatre” bubbles with reference: Gill, Gaskill, Brook, Planchon, Ashcroft, Dunbar, Schofield, Churchill and many more.

Not many articles outlast their season. “My Ideal Theatre” is worth the reading. Uncharacteristically for its medium, there is more sense than spleen, generosity than grump, in the 137 comments that follow it.

It may be read in full at:

The memoir “the Blue Touch Paper” is reviewed at:

Reviewed by: Adam Somerset

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