0F MOUTH ’
‘It has a name which had homosexual overtones and a large M. which looked like a giant piece ofsperm dripping off the packet.’
Grant Burt, managing director of the Scottish-based company behind stylish new brand Le ( ’ondom. derides rivals Mates.
‘It is the difference between a family house handed down for generations. however grand or modest. and the tenant who squats in a temporary cell.‘
Sir Nicholas Fairbairn describes the merits of hereditary royal succession.
‘I look forward to standing against Miss Cherry Pic.‘
Dave Marshall, Labour MPfor Glasgow Shettleston, uses unfortunate phrasing on discovering that his seat is one often in the city to be contested by the Corrective Party.
‘I crawl into her car and we make love while Boris Karloff and Bela Lugosi drain the life from a chick on screen.‘
Jon Bon Jovi outlines the plot of his new video. which he hopes will star Julia Roberts.
‘It is the political equivalent of those groups that believe Elvis is alive.‘ Ian Wright. former vice president of the SDP. on the turnout at that party 's annual conference in Coventry. 1
‘That’s about as helpful as sticking a clove of garlic up a dead donkey’s arsehole and telling it to canter.’ Actor Richard E. Grant describes (in real terms) the true worth of the Government's [4 million investment overfouryears in the British film industry.
4'l'he List 13— 26 September 1991
Annexe's The Surrogate: contentious subject niaiter
Theatre touring in crisis?
As Scotland’s network of small-scale touring venues tightens its belt, theatre companies are finding it increasingly difficult to make ends meet. Mark Fisher discovers a worrying lack of activity on the touring circuit.
his time last year there were twelve shows in The List’s theatre touring section. In this issue you’ll find four. Glasgow’s role as City ofCulture gave much of the impetus for last year’s activity. but there is increasing feeling among the theatre community that all is not well.
‘It’s a very difficult time,’ says Adrian Harris, Artistic Director of Edinburgh’s Theatre Workshop, ‘not just because ofthe recession. but because of forces that are at work within the arts system.’ According to Harris. there have been more cancellations in his autumn programme than ever before. These include Mandela Theatre Company, which couldn’t guarantee making the SAC’s income targets despite rave reviews and public enthusiasm for its two recent productions. and Clyde Unity Theatre whose Rag Woman Rich Woman had 87 per cent audiences at The Citizens’ Theatre. but whose expected grant from Strathclyde Region did not materialise.
The reasons are different. but the effects are the same. A company cannot afford to tour without a range ofvenues to go to. and equally it cannot afford to be out of the public eye for very long. But as local authorities look to make savings. community venues are ever more wary about how they spend the limited money available to them. Venue managers are increasingly cautious about
untried work and more likely to steer clear of contentious material. Doreen McCardle of Annexe Theatre Company, which is dedicated to new writing, describes as a ‘nightmare’ the setting up of the recent tour of The Surrogate, a serious drama about surrogate motherhood. ‘We had to send the script off to a couple of people,’ she says, ‘which is not something I would advocate doing. The name alone meant we were up against the wall — people asked us ifwe could change it. We had to agree to take Box Office rather than a fee. A lot of the venues are struggling to get audiences and they have to think very carefully about what they put on, especially if it’s a new venue. Because the money is tighter, they’re having to justify having these community centres there.’
Clyde Unity Theatre made important steps
towards reaching new audiences in 1990, but as drama workers are cut and community centres closed down, the company has not been able to develop that work. ‘I do really sympathise with promoters and venues who have to do this censorship of subject matter,’ says Aileen Ritchie of Clyde Unity, which fortunately has built up contacts with a wide enough range ofvenues to accommodate its mix of everything from children’s pantos to hard-hitting gay drama. ‘You can see why they’re doing it if it excludes part of their audience. And I can see why Strathclyde Region are saying no money because of non-payment of the Poll Tax. But ultimately what that produces is people touring a brand of theatre which is going to be very safe and leaves you no scope to expand your horizons. Venues have to have enough money to take a risk now and again.’
‘I don’t think there’s anything sinister about it,’ agrees Adrian Harris, ‘but the whole question of who supports the work. and how, needs to be debated. I can see the dilemma from both sides. The emphasis that is being put on income generation from every source — which is undeniably important — means that within every organisation there are more and more administrators supporting fewer and fewer artists performing less and less work. That seems to me a cycle that we’ve really got to address.’
Allowing market forces to dominate at a time of financial stringency is likely to hinder the nurturing of new companies and thwart the ambitions of existing ones. The solution is not obvious — no single body is to blame — but unless arts workers start to lobby for more forward thinking policies, there is a serious risk not just to touring companies, but to Scottish theatre as a whole. ‘Setting up Clyde Unity Theatre was the best thing John (Binnie) and I ever did,’ says Aileen Ritchie, “but if you were setting up a company now you’d give up. There’s not even wee scraps of money around and that’s not healthy for the overall culture of the country. I don’t want to be pessimistic, but I think we’re going to be the first ofa large number of companies that will not be able to do what they want or what their public demands.’