Double, double toil and trouble
Scottish theatre‘s crucible is hotting up with the recent resignation oi‘ two of its major players. With money too tight to mention. their successors could be sailing into stormy waters, argues Eddie Gibb.
ho would be a headhunter in Scottish theatre at the moment? To lose the artistic directors oi two of Scotland's tnost important producing houses — Michael Boyd at the Tron in Glasgow and Ian Brown oi' Edinburgh‘s 'l‘raverse -- could well be coincidence. but when it is discovered the Scottish Arts Council’s drama director is due to leave at about the same time. it begins to look like carelessness.
Scottish theatrc's extended family ain't that big. and chances are that some of the same names will crop tip on the shortlists i‘or replacements. lixpect an interesting round of musical chairs.
The question is. are the departures coincidental. or do they suggest something about the state of Scottish theatre? One thing is i‘or sure. Scottish theatre is in a state. Not artistically —— there’s a buoyant mood among
directors and writers who believe the quality of
work being produced is as good as it has ever
20 The List 23 Feb-7 Mar l996
been. But. as ever. the ﬁnances oi‘ the subsidised theatre sector — meaning just about everything that isn’t Cameron \lackintosh‘s Phantom Of The Opera — make i‘or grim reading.
The buzzword at the moment is ‘standstill‘. which applied to grants means they aren‘t going
The Tron doesn’t get enough money —
it’s as simple as that. That’s why I’m
going, and if our grant had doubled I don’t know it I would have gone.
up. With inﬂation taken into account. they‘re going down. While it‘s hardly the ﬁrst time arts organisations have bleated about cuts. there is evidence oi~ real internal bleeding this time.
In the case of Dundee Rep. the bleeding could no longer be contained — earlier this month it was announced the theatre would have to pull
Michael Boyd (left): The Trick is To Ke p Breathing (above) will stand as a titting swansong tor his decade of invention and innovation
its production oi' il’l(’(l.\'lll'(' For illt’asurc in May. as part of a package oi cuts designed to save £7().()()(). To ptit this in perspective. axing Shakespeare saves the company only £15.()()(). but you have to start somewhere. As artistic director Hamish Glen says. this public admission oi serious financial ill-health was designed to show the real impact oi‘cuts. in the past it has meant less rehearsal time. simpler sets and only pcrlbrming plays involving small casts. Now it means i'evver plays.
Where do these problems stem from? The SAC announced a standstill 1996—97 budget for Scottish theatre ai'ter learning the Scottish ()i‘i'ice had i'rozen its own overall grant for the second year running. The SAC warns that the arts world is lucky there wasn‘t an actual reduction. But this year the problem has been compounded by the uncertainty over how the cards will be dealt alter the local government reshui'i‘le in April.
Already the (‘itizens' Theatre in Glasgow has warned it is likely to go dark for half the year it