Cutting of established theatre companies.  Is it out with the old and in with the new?

Convener(s):Grainne Byrne

Participants: Bill Buffery, Gillian Russell, Lynn Gardener, Sara Perks Morven Macbeth, Dee Evans, Rob Swain. Many more in the end…

Summary of discussion, conclusions and/or recommendations:

What is a theatre company?  How is the identity defined?  Is it through the building- type of work or the artistic director? It is not the same across the board.

How can we respect the cultural capital of established theatre companies? Can companies be given the opportunity of reinventing if there are concerns? If there are no major concerns, surely it is better to keep than cull.  Do we value wisdom and experience as a society? Do we respect the end users i.e. an older audience. When companies are lost – who else is losing out?

Because of the funding structure, we are in competition with each other; therefore there is no real community.

Could there be more fluidity within companies to make change more possible? 

If a company is perceived as atrophying, could ACE encourage change indirectly by putting pressure on the Boards?  How can change be encouraged in a climate of fear? 


New = cool  old= unfashionable

New= sexy   old= unsexy

It is hugely wasteful to cut companies.  The property ie blacks, lighting equipment office equipment of disbanded companies gets sold off rather than redistributed to other companies- although that money in some cases is used to pay redundancy. 

An alternative to cutting would be to keep bringing in new/ evolving members/ artistic directors in  existing companies i.e Kneehigh

Got to fund the structured as well as ‘sexy’

Is mentoring or bringing in new blood ever mentioned?  Is that a conversation ever had between RFOs and ACE?

Companies provide ground roots training for not only actors but also technicians and designers- with that loss what is happening?

A lot of nurturing (for free) does take place and isn’t valued.

Could be that some companies are not good any more – not that they are not ‘sexy’

Is there a blind spot in the accepted logic that older companies must stagnate and become unable to innovate?

An ‘organisation’ in any sector is vulnerable to stagnation.  The structure and not necessarily the people, the machine of it will be liable to repeat itself and possibly needs to be revamped and shaken up from time to time.

Does being tied to building encourage artists to look inwardly – all the admin etc.

The artistic community needs to take responsibility for itself more

Develop self critical mechanisms and awareness – peers who a company respects who can comment on their work?

Notion that work is not worth it if it is not funded and that ACE funding is automatically of value.

Choosing not to be funded – no that of the power of ACE has to ‘sack’  or dump you therefore tainting the name of the company. 

Becoming infrastructure heavy – does less and less money ( the more and more you get) actually result in less and less money being put towards creation of work.

Keeping hold over the right to fail in this environment is still important.

Creative focus is sometimes lost in the running of a business.

Transparency: What gets in the way of it

Creating a constant conversation (Europe does it far more)

Learning from industries outside our own – needing to invent the ‘thing’ that would get them from A to B.  That is what we need to do in a rehearsal room.

Monitoring as a natural occurrence.

What stops us from sharing our work whilst in process?

Why is fear and defensiveness so prevalent?  Is it in fact?

We acknowledge the problem so what can we do about it?

Fear of apparent desire to constantly come up with the new.

We should try to talk about work in an open manner? British?

Take Off festival has critical forum.

Creating openness should take place at college.  Starts there.

Energy never goes away.  It does not stop it is just transformed something new.

The threat losing funding stops complacency.  

The Sopranos stopped at the right time.  When it is over it is over.

The arts world is getting together despite funding issues. A festival similar to the European models could be set up in order to explore and discuss theatre form and new innovations by all companies, new and old