Having burned all his wooden-top puppets for warmth, the lonely Gepetto look-a-like scoured the car-boots for stuff that the chill’un had foolishly discarded. Many years of gathering, soldering and a-splicing later, the modified toys were ready to impart their message to a careless world…
Each has spent up to eight months in residence at a theatre, assisting the director on one or more shows at the same time as shrewdly assessing the rehearsal and production process, and now each student delivers an essay and a spoken presentation on some aspect of directing that’s been focused by this experience.
In the afternoon, we have half an hour with each student to ask questions. I’m intrigued and provoked in all sorts of interesting ways – not least because, this autumn, we’ll be joined at the New Vic by one of the Birkbeck students, who will assist me on Peter Pan and report back on the experience to this forum next summer.
Day 2 at Watch This Space, and we’re flashing our performer passes around like there’s no tomorrow. Infact there is no tomorrow, ‘cos we’ll be jetting back to Coventry this evening – once the trailer has been coupled back up to Land Rover and our Food Vouchers have been redeemed in the luxurious NT canteen.
Spending a career lurking in the shadowy margins of experimentalism, it’s been easy to nurture a cynicism toward the great Theatre Institutions. Easy to forget that the National Theatre is very much a product of our times – a monument to the great achievements of post-war public-sector Arts policy. I concede also that it would be great to work here, as part of what is a substantial artist community; performers, technicians and producers all working towards the running of the glittering NT machine.
Outside, The Whale is faring very well indeed. A mixed audience of Art-hounds and passers-by, many of whom are international tourists with limited English. I’ve found myself attempting versions of the show in French, been sung to in Polish and now know the Spanish for whale….(ballena).
On the edge of the Edinburgh cliff, we went to see the warm-up for Tom’s new show which he’s performing 23 times in the festival. He’s shortened it by a few minutes since I saw it last time, and it’s energy level is threatening to cross the red line. I don’t know how he’s going to manage the full month. I wish his audiences luck and enjoyment as they are trapped in the goldfish bowl of his dream for just over an hour.
Pentabus continues to be busy over these summer months, and scripts are pouring in for WE ARE HERE, our invitation to playwrights to submit plays for a slot in our 2012 season. We have set up a London PO Box for this, and every week I head up to see what has been delivered, unsure whether to bring a bag or a wheelbarrow….so far a bag has been sufficient, but I would love it if one of these days I turn up as usual and they bring out bursting mail bags for me to carry home! (wheelbarrow safely ready in preparation for this event. I am certain it will happen.)
We had a board meeting at Birmingham mac a couple of weeks ago, which was a great opportunity to check in with everyone, to review and reflect on recent projects, and to look forward to future exciting projects. I have to say, I had never heard of Birmingham mac until recently and on arrival I think I actually vocalised a little gasp to myself, as the place is amazing! Bright, airy, accessible, busy and filled with activity, it seemed to me exactly what an arts centre should feel like. Apparently it has recently been refurbished and it is obvious they have thought really hard about the redesign, as I think it is really successful as a building. I look forward to getting to know the venue a bit more, and have another opportunity to do so this week, as I will be there for a Pentabus Meet and Greet. Oh yes. As part of our commitment to new work, I am dedicating a lot of time this year to meeting with playwrights, both locally and nationally, and to see as much new work as possible, to identify those whose ideas might resonate with Pentabus and who might be interested in what we do. Catherine from SCRIPT has been incredible in getting the word out to regional writers that we are keen to meet with them. So meet them we will. I am very much looking forward to meeting what I hope will be a diverse mix of playwrights who are all doing interesting work in the region. I will report back after the event…….!
While all this is going on, I can’t help but mention what is going on in the back of all of our minds (as I’m sure it is in most regularly funded organisations across the land); the looming shadow of the spending cuts. Uncertainty is the main issue-we just don’t know what the future holds. However, what we are certain of is the value of the arts, and the value of what we do as a company. And it is incredible to see the strength of opinion when it comes to defending and fighting for the arts, in both individuals and organisations. I read articles, twitter posts, empassioned emails, blogs, facebook status updates on a daily basis, from people who are all articulating the obvious value of the arts in our economy. Surely these kinds of facts and figures cannot be ignored?!
To quote directly from the Arts Council website (link: http://www.artscouncil.org.uk/about-us/why-arts-matter/) facts like: ’the arts budget is tiny; it costs 17p a week per person - less than half the price of a pint of milk.’
‘For every £1 that the Arts Council invests, an additional £2 is generated from private and commercial sources, totalling £3 income.’
‘The UK has the largest creative sector in the EU, and relative to GDP probably the largest in the world.’
The Arts Council has put together a really strong set of reasons why any cuts to the arts should be carefully considered, I urge anyone who is interested to click on the above link and take a look, it makes for some interesting reading. And if what you read makes you want to do something, then I reckon a letter to your local MP might just make a difference.
Meanwhile, it is business as usual. And there is plenty to be getting on with!