There are some problems to address: all three of the recent ACE reports on theatre point out that many playwrights are concerned with changes in developmental practice - notably, an increase in the role and power of dramaturgs - and there is a widespread concern that playwrights are finding it harder to sustain a life-long career (a conclusion confirmed in the Writers' Guild Theatre Committee's evidence to Writ Large). In particular, theatres seem less inclined than ever to present second productions of successful new plays.
Nonetheless, the expansion of new writing - and, in particular, its breaking out of the studio ghetto - represents a triumph for the Arts Council, for which new writing was a priority for most of the last 30 years, and for artistic directors, literary managers and dramaturgs who refused to accept the widely-held presumption that new work empties theatres.
There is, however, the obvious paradox that news of this triumph comes at a point when fashionable opinion has turned its back on the written play, in favour of work by devising, performance-based companies. For 10 years, it's been assumed that text-based theatre in general, and new writing in particular, was on the way out. In fact, it is thriving as never before.
Monday, January 04, 2010
On the Writers' Guild website, David Edgar, who helped research and write The British Theatre Consortium's recent report for Arts Council England (Writ Large: New Writing on the English Stage 2003-2009) reflects on its findings and those of two other major ACE theatre studies.