Big Plays. Big Casts. Where have they gone?

Convener(s): Daniel Goldman          

Participants: Rose Biggin, Nicola Stanhope, Sarah Punshon Jen Toksvig, Daniel Bye, Adam Barnard, Antonio Ferrara, Jonathan Holloway, Roddy Gauld, David Luff, Matt Trueman, Martin Parr, Tommy Lexen, Paschate Straiton, Clhloe Dechery, Rhiannon A, Alex Jamieson, Amber massie-Blomfield, Lise Marker, Malken Bruun-Aanodt, Eleanor Lloyd, Thomas Eccleshare, Alan Sharpinton, Lucy Oliver Harrison

Summary of discussion, conclusions and/or recommendations:

Questions that arose… And answers

Where is large scale theatre happening?

Schools, TV, Community, Drama School, Am Dram, West End, Major Subsidised Theatres (RSC/National/Globe)

Why is there no funding?

Personnel costs to high. Spaces to small to balance budgets. Too risky an investment. Before, lets say in Shakespeare’s time, productions were supported by guilds… not so anymore… (Corporate Sponsors???)

How big is big?

8 or 12 or 20 or 100 actors in an aircraft hangar.

Where do we put these big plays? Where are the spaces?

Oudoors. Major theatres. West End. West End has 64 theatre makers on the payroll. Wicked has 35+ etc.

Small spaces make it difficult to work at a large scale.

Would more money mean bigger plays?

Is there a way of making large scale work without exploiting professional theatre makers?

Community casts/ Working with amateurs. Working with young people. Its important to give back to/care for these “volunteers”. Training. Sharing. Support etc.

Big productions work. They travel the world. But how do you sell them/sell the vision?

Should theatres support large scale new writing?

How do you move beyond the fringe when making big work.

Do playwrights want to write big plays?

Why do we need/love big plays with big casts?

Some stories require a big cast for the telling. Big is beautiful.

Should anyone be working for free? Should we entertain the notion of a fringe minimum salary?

Generally, being paid is better than not but the establishment of an fringe minimum (under the living wage) might do more damage. Let each company offer the most it can offer in the given circumstances.

How do we get corporates/angels supporting large scale work/any work?

Some had tried and found it very difficult.

Thoughts to making big theatre with big casts doable and easier.

  • Don’t work full time hours - rehearse part time for longer
  • Be savvy
  • Co-productions (become a bigger fish)
  • Raise your profile
  • Rep system ? (advantages – training, familiarity vs disadvantage – quality (sometimes)
  • New funding means – Complimentary activities (nightclub/bar/restaurant/corporate/teaching etc.)
  • Adopt an actor schemes
  • Long term planning
  • Good quality work!
  • Give give give
  • Sell the process
  • Don’t be so precious about your artistic soul
  • Bar splits – engineer contracts with theatres in your favour
  • Find your own space – too expensive and limiting to rent theatre spaces
  • Higher ticket prices (value of our theatre?)
  • More versatility
  • The 40/45 hour week. If you’re paying equity rates, get the most out of your actors. If they’re doing 20 hours of shows a week. Use them for the other 25!
  • Keep it real – you don’t start a start up business with 20 people… you grow into a company of twenty
  • Find an angel J