The Playgoer: RNT 07-08

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Thursday, February 22, 2007

RNT 07-08

Royal National Theatre just announced its upcoming season.

Classics by Shakespeare, Sophocles, Pinter, and Shaw, sure. But also a few premieres--genuine "premieres," that is!--including Joe ("Blue Orange") Penhall's latest "Landscape With Weapon," about arms dealers. Plus... Gorky? "19th century Swedish author Victoria Benedictsson"???

A season to make New Yorkers weep out of envy for the variety of the Royal National Theatre's three stages of healthily subsidized rep.

And yet--A.D. Nick Hytner went out of his way at the "launch" to rail against current gov't freezes in arts funding.

At the press conference, Hytner took the opportunity to comment on U.K. government warnings that arts orgs should expect, at best, standstill grants in the forthcoming spending round. Hytner, whose theater receives an annual grant of £16 million ($31.2 million), argued that arts institutions weren't looking for grant increases but that standstill funding represented a deleterious cut.

The U.K., he pointed out, has created tax breaks and investment opportunities for British film that are visibly paying dividends in the form of the British presence at this year's Oscars. Helen Mirren, Stephen Frears, Judi Dench and Patrick Marber, all of whom learned their trade in, and continue to work in, the British subsidized theater sector, have lent their voices to a plea to maintain funding levels.

Marber said, "It would be a huge blow -- both for the theater and the future health of the film industry -- if reduced funding forced theaters to take fewer risks and deny writers the chance to develop and find their voice."

Indeed, maybe talking about theatre as "research & development" is our only way to get through to our increasingly corporate politicians.

Then again, our theatre-film link in this country is not nearly as strong as the UK's.

And based on this year, at least... who made the better films...?

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