If, like me, you have been missing sitting in the dark watching a film on the big screen with other people, or standing in the same space as a painting or sculpture, there is cause to (cautiously) celebrate.
However, for theatres there is still no clarity on when they might be able to welcome back their audiences. And that is very bad news indeed. This week two large regional theatres – Plymouth Theatre Royal and its namesake in Newcastle announced that they had taken the difficult decision of making drastic job cuts. And this will be just the tip of the iceberg.
The future is quite frankly looking increasingly bleak for the theatre industry. What has to happen for the Government to step in and actually do something? The fact is that theatre may not survive this – it is hard to know how to express it more forcefully.
As playwright James Graham tweeted following the announcement from Plymouth: “That’s one of the largest, most well attended theatres outside London. A theatre that now has no artists, and they won’t be coming back. Our world-beating cultural landscape is in collapse.” Since way back in April Graham has been calling for “an aggressive government bailout” but no further official guidance or financial support appears to be forthcoming. It really is a desperate situation now – and it is going to get worse. The whole theatre ecology is at serious risk of disappearing. For the Government not to intervene with a proper rescue package is an act of cultural vandalism, on an unprecedented scale.
Apart from anything else it is so short-sighted. Even if this Government doesn’t value the arts for all the reasons that most thinking, feeling human beings do – enrichment, wellbeing, enlightenment, education, entertainment – the sector is also one of the UK’s biggest economic assets. The figures consistently show that it brings way more into the economy than it takes out – you might think that would speak to the (so-called) leadership of this country who appear to care about money above all else.
On the other side of all this we will need theatre more than ever before – the stories and storytellers investigating the world around us and what it means to be human, helping us to learn from what we have just been through; how to be in and of the world, how to be kind to it and those we share it with. To make a better future for all of us. We need to be shouting this from the rooftops.
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