I mentioned in an earlier post that the Jerwood placement has allowed me to access performances that I otherwise couldn’t have. For four shows, this was because they were in London. Travel to the capital has always been prohibitively expensive for me (and that’s before even adding the often absurd prices some theatres charge). This makes it particularly irksome that quite a lot of great theatre sticks so rigidly to London. Be that smaller shows without the budget to tour, or bigger shows that don’t need to because they know audiences will come to them. Things like the NT Live screenings are wonderful but it’s still not quite the same. Which is I’m so pleased to be working at Theatre Royal Plymouth (TRP). Regional producing theatres like TRP are so vital because they bring great theatre to more diverse audiences and allows the development of interesting new work (two of the plays I saw had previously been performed in Plymouth). There are some truly great theatres country-wide achieving impressive things but London still seems to be such a talent drain, particularly because of the national press’s tendency to be London centric.*
*a caveat to this – I’ve been very privileged to have lived in Edinburgh for the past six years, so have seen a wealth of wonderful things at the Fringe. But again, it’s a lot of great work being produced in one small area that not everyone is able to access. Edinburgh is very expensive in August in terms of cost of living. The show tickets themselves can actually be very cheap, so for existing Edinburgh residents it can widen access to arts (to a degree, there’s issues with how the Fringe markets itself and how people perceive it, many Edinburgh folk I know feel that the Fringe is very much for the tourists). It also has perhaps a disproportionate impact on the arts scene for the rest of the year. Many theatres programme visiting companies on the back of Edinburgh shows, making it more difficult for those unable to afford the high costs of bringing a show to Edinburgh to get noticed, especially if they’re outside of London. The Fringe is a wonderful thing but it definitely has its drawbacks. I’m in two minds about its impact in terms of giving voice to those who may be overlooked by traditional theatres, but also excluding a lot of others (I’ll probably do a longer post on this at some point).
Quite the tangent there, so back to the plays! As I was in London on business (still love saying it) anyway, I decided to make the most of it and cram in as much theatre as possible. I saw the two productions we had brought to the Southwark Playhouse and two external productions. I also got to see the tour of Hairspray when it stopped by TRP. I feel very grateful to have had the chance to see these plays, so I’ll be posting a few of my thoughts on them. I was going to include them all in this post but that turned out to be an insane length for one post, apparently brevity is not my forte.