The Playgoer: Edifice Complexes

Custom Search

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Edifice Complexes

I admit to going a bit ga-ga myself over the Guthrie and other swanky new theatre buildings. And I do believe some nice seats and a tolerable bathroom go a long way toward making theatregoing a positive experience again for those who've abandoned it.

But thankfully Lyn Gardner at the Guardian is always there for a reality check. Let's not get carried away with the brick and mortar, she cautions, and let's remember to put our increasingly spare resources into what goes on the stage, not the mere materials it's built of. "The theatre as a building has only been with us over the last 400 years or so," she reminds us, adding:

New models such as the National Theatre of Scotland, a "theatre without walls", which utilise found spaces such as airports and woodland glades alongside traditional theatres are sign-posting a way forward, and organisations such as the Barbican and its Bite seasons are thinking ahead in recognising that its own theatres are not necessarily the most appropriate place for some shows. Why shouldn't commercial theatre be similarly forward-thinking and look beyond the current spaces available, most of which were built with a traditional three-act play in mind and are now only suitable for musicals.

A colder funding climate is not the time to start getting nostalgic about buildings even if they have been knocking around for a couple of hundred years. If we have to make choices between putting public money into bricks and mortar or into making art and nurturing the next generation of artists, I know where I want it to go. We can scrape by without buildings, but British theatre will be lost without tomorrow's theatre makers.

Nothing gets out the checkbooks quicker than a shiny model of some space-age performing arts complex--with lots of naming opportunities, of course. But let's not let fundraising become its own raison d'etre.

BTW: Regarding the Isherwood link above (which I liked!) check out the response from Michael Kahn, the AD of the theatre mocked for its donor fetishizing.

No comments: