Monday, February 02, 2009

Theatre Fail

The Irish Times reports today that a number of smaller theatre companies are going to the wall after the Arts Council withdrew their subsidies. I will particularly miss Calypso, a group whose work tried to use drama as a way of engaging with and promoting issues. The two productions of theirs I saw (Gavin Kostick's The Asylum Ball and Anthony Neilson's The Wonderful World of Dissocia) were both wonderfully inventive pieces of work. Issues-based drama suggests a certain turgid preachiness, but these works had a lightness and stylistic charm that meant that they could be enjoyed for their theatricality irrespective of the message they were meant to be communicating. I do not know if the same was true of Calypso's other productions, but I will miss seeing plays like the above two performed on the Dublin stage.

The world of the theatre must be facing a double squeeze right now. The downturn must mean that fewer people are willing to spend what can often be quite large sums of money on theatre tickets. Arts subsidies, meanwhile, are always an easy thing to cut when the state faces a collapse in its tax revenue. The Arts Council here have apparently decided to respond to cuts by disproportionately hurting the smaller companies (in some cases, as with Calypso, completely withdrawing their subsidies), with the rationale being that it is better in the long-run to keep Big Theatre going.

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