Issue: Is it Ok to make so much bad theatre?

 Convener(s): Sarah Pym

 Participants: Catherine Pinhorn, Catherine Eccles, Lyn Gardner, Sharon Smith, Carol Metcalfe, Pui Fan Lee, William White, Hannah Crosson, Louie Platt, Zoe Pickering, Elaine Kidd, Suzy Harvey, Ellie Dubois, Jo Hammett, Haqzel Maddocks, Gemma Paintin, Ginnie Stephens, Matt Burman, Tiziana Sarra, Simon Bedford and many other contributors. 

Summary of discussion, conclusions and/or recommendations:

  • Take responsibility!:-

            Audiences should walk out

            Actors should speak out

            Directors should pull out

  • Pay at the end, parking meters (pay by the hour) , 2nd hand tickets 
  • Mediocre theatre is worse than bad theatre-we must make the mediocre better

Responsibility, Trust and honesty

Marketing must be honest as must venues. Create an honest dialogue with the audience. Go on the journey together. Shows should not be self-indulgent – keep the audience in mind. Responsibility of an artist to understand feedback and understand their reaction to it. Artists should not be arrogant.Performers should demand the right environment to create good work.Society should be generous enough to accept a bad piece of work and not let it ruin a reputation. Be clear about the intention of the work-is it really ready for a public platform? 

Definitions of bad theatre:-

Bad theatre is when the promise is broken 

When it doesn’t know what it is and performers don’t know what their job is

Actor’s don’t always know if it’s bad because they have to believe in it to make themselves go on. Performers can turn bad theatre into good theatre.

How do we get audiences to like the sort of work that we like to make – or is this self-indulgent.?

Good theatre is about your own integrity. If this is not communicated to an audience and they’re not happy – it’s failed.Tendency for artists to dismiss audiences for not being “up to their art” 


If something is free is it valued differently? We expect a level of quality because of cost. We are able to reject bad books or visual art but expect theatre to always be good and are consequently disappointed.

So much financial pressure such as casting “big names” and short rehearsal process to reduce expenditure. Good theatre is an act of humility and should not rip-off an audience.


Who are the quality police? If audiences don’t speak out then the critics are too powerful. “The show must go on” pressure – directors and venues should have the courage to pull a show and economics should allow it.

Theatre is a craft –like building. It takes a long time to learn those skills. You know that seeing top quality ballet or opera will at least be very skilled because the performers have trained for years to get there. No so with theatre – top quality productions can be pants and conversely a small-scale or community show can be deeply moving and enjoyable.

Too much is talked about risk-taking – it’s boring – it’s just about telling a story well.

Have the confidence and trust to ask “is this good?” the feedback that is received should be supported by a good infrastructure.

If they criticize the work – intensify it!

It’s wrong to equate bad theatre with fringe theatre, all theatre can be bad.

Definitions of theatre ie physical, performance art can be divisive and un-helpful can mislead not clarify.