“If you’re at the stage where you are still counted as an emerging artist it is fairly exciting to get your first review. It’s also that chance to see if people have ‘got it’. Your parents and friends will laugh at the funny bits and cry at the personal bits but there is always that sense they’re doing it because it’s your hobby. Like the way your mum used to watch you play footie at Moss Bank Park in Bolton now comes to see your shows in the rough parts of Salford. It’s brilliant they can come but they’re not going to write a blog for you, writing objectively about the thing you spent months crying,bleeding pissing out of your system. That’s one reviewers come in handy. They’ll pick apart your baby like a sick cannibal. They may say something you never even imagined about your show. They may just chew away at it’s ribs.
Yeah at times the reviews can be “yeah, the show wasn’t the show I wanted to see. He didn’t do any characters.” or “Josh is a tall man and he speaks in a northern accent.” But sometimes there is the odd one from someone you never knew existed before the review came out. Someone with a shit url like www.iliketheatreLOL.com but they hit the nail on the head. It may be a negative write up or a glowing review but when reading it it validates all the worry you had In the back of your head that as an emerging artist you struggled to answer. When you’ve not got a huge institution behind you, you’ve had to put a deposit down on the venue and you’re on stage by yourself for an hour, it’s nice to have someone to make the effort to truly critique what you’ve done. It makes it feel like what you doing is worth it’s while. It’s not just a hobby to pass over the time between graduating and getting a real human job. It’s your job.
Tim Walker would never come to see any of my shows. I don’t want him to either. The Telegraph of The Times will probably never review my show. I’m fine with that. I don’t like star ratings and I’ll never perform on a west end stage so I don’t need them to sell tickets. I like playing rooms above pubs and other odd little places. I want people to come in and see my show to have discussions with each other over a pint after. If they carry that on and write a blog about it then excellent and I’ll be incredibly thankful. Even if the review is just “Josh scratched his bollocks an extraordinarily amount during his performance “ It’s still something I think is valid.
Online theatre criticism is the conversation after the show. It’s uncensored and it’s exciting. It’s not there to sell the show it’s reviewing. It’s there to be that dialogue between audience and performer.”
“Hannah Nicklin ran a free performance night above a pub in Leicester for some time; Forest Fringe has always operated on a pass-a-bucket-around basis. Sometimes, different models can lead to different relationships between performers, audiences and venues that are built on something other than a monetary exchange for a commodity.
What’s also different about what’s happening at ARC is the fact that it’s taking place over such a sustained period and over such a substantial part of the programme (comedy is exempt from the offer), which in itself allows the possibility of really examining how far it is that price is a barrier to attendance and how much it is other issues.
One of the interesting things around research on the A Night Less Ordinary scheme, which offered theatre tickets to young people was the fact was when price was no longer a barrier, then other barriers – uncertainties about how to behave, what to wear, even approaching the box office – were indirectly reduced too. The whole idea of going to the theatre became less of a risk.
What will happen at ARC between January and June is that audiences will be able to book a ticket in advance if they want, but there will be no obligation to pay anything in advance. Instead you pay at the end, and only you, not the venue, will decide how much it’s worth. If you don’t want to pay anything, that’s fine – you’ll be able to slip away into the night and nobody will know. The sense of obligation is entirely removed.
Turpin suggests that while it will, she hopes, encourage those to come to the theatre who might not otherwise be able to afford such a night out, the initiative is less about simply removing the financial barrier than removing the financial risk, which are two quite different things. After all, if people know that they want to see something, they will often find the money. It’s when they are uncertain about a show that they are less willing to take a risk, and what ARC is doing should help encourage that risk-taking.”
“I hope that Suzman recants what she has said, and takes time out to do what most theatre-makers do when a production is failing to find an audience: check your repertoire. Maybe what you’re offering is simply not what the people want.
Theatre does not have one simple definition, of course. People of African and Asian descent have been making it for thousands of years, in open spaces, in temples and on the road.
My direct ancestors – African American slaves and freedmen and women – made theatre in the European tradition, from early on. For example, the African Grove Theatre, founded by William Henry Brown and James Hewlett, travelled throughout the Caribbean, performing Shakespeare to enslaved people working the tobacco plantations and the murderous sugar cane fields.
The first play written by an African American – The Drama of A Stowaway –was presented by them, in 1823. It was a success, playing to black and white audiences alike, but mostly black. My instinct is that the play spoke to something the audience knew, in the language they knew, and allowed them to find a human space within their tragic experience.
The African Grove’s base in New York City was subject to police raids, harassment and white opposition. The company moved to the Lower East Side, within the black community, but harassment forced them to close.
I find this story particularly moving because it reflects what happens to the work of Asian, black, Chinese and First Nations theatre in the west. It is the first to be cut when times are hard; the first to not appear in the canon; the first not to be reviewed when space is limited. In some ways it is boring to recount these travails over and over, but they don’t go away. They are always there.”
“The third and final idea was more labour intensive, but built on the useful steer that In Battalions’ power is as a ‘factory’ generating hardcore statistics on the effects of very recent cuts, which we are all arguing about but which no-one is actually studying. Why not try to raise some money for another report? This would mostly be to pay Helen (and perhaps a small team of assistants) a decent fee to continue the research. Helen has been hugely generous in working pro bono up to now, but she is finishing her PhD soon and will be in need of an income. Moreover, these issues are not going away. More cuts are undoubtedly coming. Other, bigger campaigns such as What Next? are better placed to lobby ideologically to try to prevent or mitigate those cuts. But In Battalions’ most useful role is to chart their effects, impartially, dispassionately and using standardised research methods which it is difficult to dismiss. We can continue to be the ammunition factory of the British theatre industry.
We spent a while debating how best to go about raising the money for this. Between us, the people in the room had links to Equity, the Writers’ Guild and the Arts and Humanities Research Council. We also discussed crowdfunding, which we may yet do. However, Helen made the important point that for further research to be taken seriously, the funding needs to also be seen as impartial (which may rule out Equity and the Guild). Discussions continue around this and I’ll post an update as and when – and if anyone has a brainwave about appropriate funding sources, do get in touch. Helen is in the process of costing up what would be a realistic figure, but as a rough guide we all felt in the region of £20,000 was what we were aiming for. Ambitious but by no means impossible.
Finally we spent a while discussing what the focus of a new tranche of research ought to be. Several felt that a simple re-run of the original research would suffice – charting the latest effects of the cuts two years on, though probably taking in a larger number of theatre companies, who would probably take part given the increased profile we now enjoy since undertaking the first report.
However, others felt that a new angle to the research might be more beneficial, partly for publicity purposes (journalists would be most interested in a new research question) and partly to deepen and complement the previous research. We may undertake a brief consultation with the sector on this, to see if there is an angle which would be most useful (if you have a suggestion, let us know) but one question which seemed to interest all of us was around the effects of the cuts on access and diversity: ‘Whose voices are being heard – whose stories are being told?’ While new plays and playwrights are undoubtedly endangered, they probably aren’t about to disappear altogether just yet. However what will happen long before then is that those plays and playwrights become drawn from a narrower and narrower pool of people – those who can afford to take part in an art form which is increasingly becoming economically unviable. This has huge implications for the worlds which appear on our stages.”
“Because it’s obvious to almost everyone who has looked at this advert, that this is a skilled job. A job that you must apply for, with a CV and covering letter answering two questions, which would demonstrate a certain level of pre-existing knowledge of digital resources in a heritage environment. A job for that only pays £101.01/ week. That’s £5252.52/ year.
A year, after which, there is no indication of whether there may be a permanent job within the Museum Trust if you have done well within this ‘apprenticeship’. I’d say likely not, since the job description says this is a ‘temporary’ post. 12 months, just enough time to produce those high quality digital resources and be out the door.
The heritage industry has a problem. Job adverts like this one, which are clearly for a job, but pay at the rate of something that is not a job, well they are a HUGE part of this problem. However, I don’t want you to think that York Museum Trust is alone in this, because they’re not. There are countless organisations and institutions out there that are relying on volunteers and under-paid ‘apprentices’ to complete skilled work.
And people will continue to apply for them – school leavers, unemployed graduates, redundant museum professionals – because they’re desperate to be a part of the heritage industry. They think, if they just get more experience then they’ll be able to get a job. Except they won’t, because there aren’t any jobs, only apprenticeships and volunteer positions.”
“Four hours earlier an email came through, it said it couldn’t process payment for a book I’d ordered (ironically the first book I’ve been published in) I was confused, looked at my bank statement:
-489.00 x city council rent
What?! So I got on the phone to the rent team, it turns out they thought I was working for a company who I went for a job interview with a year ago, a company that operates on zero contract hours, a company that has not offered me any work. The man on the phone told me I’d been ‘unlucky’ that it would be sorted out but not (nor a refund) until January. Useful, given its two weeks to Christmas. I rang the bank to try and freeze overdraft charges on my account, they can’t until I demand a refund and they ‘may’ do that out of a gesture of ‘goodwill’ explained the person on minimum wage that works there, (they aren’t paid to give a fuck, so don’t get mad at them).
Three weeks ago I kissed a dying man’s bald head and listened while my friend say she was relived that she got cancer, because that meant the endless drudgery and pressure of looking for work (she’s well qualified but older) was paused for a month. That’s what the system does to us little people, makes us glad for adversity in the blur of everyday menial fog.”