Theatre in Wales

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Wales and Scotland: Looking at the Gap

Theatre of Scotland

The Value of Benchmarking , Culture of Wales , February 3, 2021
Theatre of Scotland by The Value of Benchmarking In 1989 Robert Camp wrote a substantial pioneering book that introduced widely the subject of benchmarking. The area went on to be an important component of Quality Management. It does not feature in the quality framework for cultural policy in Wales.

It should.

The make-up of the United Kingdom is ideal for cross-nation comparison and equivalence across its different parts.

Scotland acted as a strong influence on cultural thinking in Cardiff. “Black Watch”, said the new Chair of the National Theatre I 2008, “We all want a “Black Watch.”

“Black Watch”, see below 21st May 2008, was about the nation going to war. “Black Watch”, recorded the review, “a regular sell-out in Scotland ever since its 2006 premiere, has yomped to America, both East and West coasts, and landed in Wales for a few days, before returning to Virginia next week, then Toronto .” Australia was to follow and, eventually, London's Barbican.

Theatre of Wales got its theatre about war. It was called “the Sanger” and was made by the Sherman. Once the National Theatre came into being it was never going to do a “Black Watch” and it never did.

The record from Scotland is illuminating in two dimensions. There is the issue of what is produced, what is put on a stage and given to audiences. There is also the issue of how the state communicates with its nation. In the nature of governance in Cardiff there is no obligation for beneficiaries of cultural money to speak of what has been made with it.

Although some do. Mid-Wales Opera and Theatr Clwyd in recent have displayed some facts and figures of what they have been up to.

The report on the National Theatre of Scotland is issued by the Secretary for Culture every two years. Government at this time is in a permanent state of emergency. The last report covers the period April 2016 to March 2018. The reference is given below.

It is true that Scotland's National Theatre has a larger budget than its counterpart in Castle Arcade, £4,1700,000 in the last reported year. But it does greatly more with it. For a start it does not do productions that run to one, two, or three performances. The governance of Wales is unique in presiding over this.

The audience numbers- freely given in the public domain- in the last reporting year are 48,063 in Scotland, 62,353 elsewhere in the United Kingdom and 30,779 internationally.

The government of Scotland supports its national theatre to the amount of £29 per member of audience. In Wales public subsidy in the last reporting year has dropped from its peak to £66 per audience member. The company quintupled its sales revenue in 2019 which reduced its subsidy from its high of around £500 per audience member.

Benchmarking is a useful management tool.

As for what is put on for the people of Scotland these are among the productions.

“Our Ladies of Perpetual Succour” had a West End run under the aegis of Sonia Friedman Productions. It is a raucous, rude show. The National Theatre of Wales does not do rude and raucous and does not do runs in London.

Cora Bisset and Frances Poet’s “Adam” toured widely, including London. Its subject was real life story of Adam Kashmiri, a young trans man from Egypt who travelled to Glasgow in order to transition.

Theatre in Cardiff does not do transgender issues. When Jon Brittain's brilliant Olivier-winning “Rotterdam” toured the only audiences in Wales to see it were in Mold.

In Scotland the Edinburgh tramway was a fiasco. It got a satirical pasting in a show at the Traverse Theatre. In Wales £143,000,000- if that is the right figure- was spent on not building a motorway . It had no cultural echo. Of any kind. It gets no mention.

“My Left My Left Right Foot: The Musical” was a sell-out at the Brighton Comedy Festival. This was how it was described:

“...foul-mouthed comic brilliance. Scottish production that reaps comedy gold from society's awkwardness about disability...tiptoes right to the precipice of massive offense. For some, it tumbles right in. During the interval audience members can be heard tutting at the amount of times “the c-word” is casually thrown around. But it’s not just the swearing. The play makes mayhems over our awkwardness around disability while also ruthlessly sending up institutionalised inclusivity. Much of the humour derives from crossing lines not usually crossed.”

The co-production with the theatre company Birds of Paradise was a sell-out at the Fringe of 2018. I know from experience. Pleadings with press offices can often yield a spare seat somewhere. For this show there was nothing to be had.

None of these shows has their equivalent in Cardiff. The reasons are plain.


Reviewed by: Adam Somerset

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