Friday, January 23, 2009

Community Theatre or Theatre Community?

For time immemorial, the phrase ‘community theatre’ has been synonymous with poor quality and performance, but now that it’s become harder and harder, both socially and economically, to connect to audiences, potential funders are calling for greater engagement with the Average Joe. Lyn Gardner from the London ‘Guardian’ travelled to the Wildworks Theatre Company to see if they possibly had the solution. Read an excerpt below and the full article here.

"Community participation is a growth area in theatre at the moment. There's funding available, for one thing, particularly when there's talk of regeneration and legacy, two persuasive buzzwords when it comes to convincing politicians that the arts are a jolly good thing. But how do you really get the community involved? Stories abound of dubiously ethical projects where theatre companies descend like vultures, then depart when they've torn the meat from the bones. Sometimes the community makes it clear that they don't want the project at all: a major musical collaboration between The Shout and Protein Dance had to be cancelled at short notice during last year's Brighton festival, when it became apparent that it would be impossible to put together the required choir.

But some companies are clearly getting it right. I am in Devonport, near Plymouth, where upstairs in the Oddfellows Club on Ker Street, a lesson in community engagement is taking place. The teacakes and the biscuits have been laid out and the room is buzzing. This is a tea party organised by Wildworks theatre company, whose community-based project The Beautiful Journey will premiere inside the Devonport naval yard in June. The show will explore the spirit of ships, shipyards and the people who live nearby."

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