Friday, July 03, 2009

Hampstead Theatre's future

With aritstic director Anthony Clarke having stepped down, on The Guardian Theatre Blog Michael Billington calls for the next incumbent to programme a mix of new plays and neglected classics.
At the moment, the only two London theatres to mix new plays with revivals of forgotten work are the Orange Tree and the Finborough. Both, I should add, are hugely successful, but inevitably operate on a smaller scale. Hampstead could do a similar job, and I suspect there are some rich pickings to be had from the 20th century repertory. From Britain alone, I can think of a dozen plays from John Galsworthy, Somerset Maugham, Emlyn Williams and Graham Greene right up to Arnold Wesker, David Hare, Howard Brenton and Trevor Griffiths that are worth another look.
In the comments, however, playwright David Eldridge calls for more fundamental change, arguing that whoever takes over at Hampstead should:
Eschew the awful development culture which has grown around our theatre like bind weed, alongside rampant over-commissing, which sees playwrights increasingly infantalised and treated with little respect. The theatre in general has always been most succcessful when canny artistic teams have backed playwrights to persue a vision. How an earth did our new writing culture become so like the bone-headed TV development regimes? The new AD could take a leaf out of the Bush's renewed commitment to being a play house where they put on the plays they like most and only give the writer notes when the theatre is committed to the play. I think Stephen Dadry said in the early 90s we need "to listen to the kids". These days the kids seem to be required to listen to the theatre...

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