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Tag Archive | "2010"

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Curtain down on 2010

Posted on 31 December 2010 by Lois Jeary

As we brave our way through this winter of discontent, it seems an appropriate time to look back at the past twelve months and try to assess whether 2010 was a good year for the young theatre lovers.

Rather than dwell on the negatives, perhaps it’s best to just get them out of the way right at the start. As purse strings were tightened all around the country, young people were further squeezed out of the arts and made to feel distinctly like a non-priority when it came to funding decisions and access schemes. Many of the earliest casualties of the coalition’s budget cuts were schemes introduced in 2009 that, although arguably may not have been the best implemented policies, directly targeted and benefitted young people. You know the damage by now: A Night Less Ordinary, Arts Council England’s free ticket scheme for under 26 year olds, is to be curtailed ahead of time; Find Your Talent, a scheme which gave schoolchildren regular involvement in performing arts, is to be cut; as is the Future Jobs Fund, which provided financial assistance to help arts (and other) organisations hire young people who were out of work for over six months. Theatres big and small are facing funding cuts, although we’re yet to see exactly what impact this will have on the larger organisations’ individual ticketing deals for young people. Yet when you consider that many local arts organisations and youth programs are also vulnerable to the demands on local authorities to make savings, the outlook looks bleak, not just for young people who love theatre, but for those who may not have discovered theatre yet, and who will now find it even harder to access it and be inspired.

On the plus side, necessity is the mother of invention, and rather than saying ‘good riddance’ to young audiences, theatres are increasingly finding innovative ways to attract and retain young theatre lovers. My purse may be bursting from all the individual membership cards for schemes I’ve joined, but there are still great deals to be had if you’re willing to whore your youth for a free ticket. This year has also seen more and more ways for young people to be actively involved in what goes on in theatres across the country. From Battersea Arts Centre‘s If I Ruled the World, a festival where young people devised, performed and debated, via Hoxton Select, which is gearing up for another run of works chosen by a panel of young people, to the growth of York Theatre Royal’s Takeover Festival, 2010 has been a year when young people have had a real say in what goes on stage. As we have previously discussed on A Younger Theatre, this was also a year in which children’s theatre played with the big boys, with established practitioners producing shows aimed at a younger demographic which actually appeal across the ages. 2011 will also be the year that War Horse becomes a global phenomenon thanks to a Broadway transfer and Spielberg film – let us not forget the play’s humble beginnings in the NT Studio.

It has also been a good year for a few notable young theatre practitioners. Nineteen year old Anya Reiss became the youngest ever playwright to be staged in London when her debut, Spur of the Moment, was staged at the Royal Court. Critics could barely contain their excitement that the play had been written by a 17 year old, but the fact she won the Evening Standard Theatre Award for Most Promising Playwright is a testament to the maturity of the writing. The same awards, which championed youth alongside experience, also saw actor Daniel Kaluuya celebrated for his performance in the Royal Court’s Sucker Punch. It has been inspiring to see young writers and performers making a splash, although the achievements of those significantly younger than yourself doesn’t half put your own life in sharp perspective…

When we asked you for your favourite plays and musicals of the past year, we received an impressive variety of shows from around the country, proving (as if proof were needed!) that younger audiences are engaging in a significant range of theatre and that the appetite is there to be built on. There were of course some traditional suggestions – Shakespeare, Les Mis, and the hugely popular Jerusalem will continue to feature on ‘Best of’ lists until the end of time – yet there was one word that kept recurring throughout your explanations for pieces you enjoyed the most – immersive. Whether it was @EveNicol‘s suggestion of Theatre Delicatessen‘s Mercury Fur in London, @HollyCParkerx‘s favourite Sound&Fury‘s Kursk at the Warwick Arts Centre, or any of the plays programmed in Belt Up‘s House Above at the Edinburgh Fringe, plays that threw the audience into the heart of the drama afforded a theatrical experience that has remained in audiences’ minds many months later. It has certainly been a good year for new projects that challenge the audience to participate in the making of the theatre. You Me Bum Bum Train was the fastest selling show ever produced by the Barbican and BAC’s One-on-One Festival was the first of its kind. Both insisted you come and play, giving you very little choice in the matter, and purists would probably run a mile. However, it seems that there is a growing demand for interactive and site-specific theatre, especially amongst younger audiences, and it will be interesting to see how this movement develops.

As the curtain comes down on 2010 it seems, on balance, to have been a good year for the young theatregoer – on a personal note, I have seen more theatre in 2010 than in any previous year, and much of it has been utterly inspiring. It’s difficult to tell what the year ahead will mean for young audiences; however, writing for this website provides me with constant reassurance that young people are passionate about theatre. Recent successes in engaging younger audiences will hopefully provide a firm foundation for the future.

Here are a few more of your theatrical highlights from the past year, share your own and please feel free to add your own reasons why you think 2010 has been a good/bad year for the young theatregoer…

@theatreofdamned: Jerusalem! What a boring choice, but so good I’m thinking about a New York trip just to see it again.

@PeterjHolland: Into the Woods at The Open Air Theatre was definitely my highlight this year. The cast were great and it was IN THE WOODS!

@KellyTeruko: Best play was Metamorphosis by Belt Up Theatre at the Edinburgh Fringe. Powerful, modern take on old material, totally fresh and thought-provoking. Best musical – obviously HAIR! Brilliant music, emotional performances and a once in a lifetime experience.

@CatherineLove21: Hair, for the sheer enthusiasm of that amazing Broadway cast – I don’t know where they got their energy!

@MsCEdge: Design for Living at the Old Vic – I wish I was involved in it! I thought it was sexy without being in your face and fabulously good looking.

@kelly_lou_smith: Ghost Stories! A very well thought out piece of theatre. Appears very formulaic at first but is very subversive by the end. Not necessarily as scary as was made out but they definitely succeed in manipulating and heightening audience expectation and anticipation with every aspect of the production, whether this be through the superb marketing campaign, the transformation of the interior design of the theatre or the pre-show light flickering and eerie sound design that fails to leave your head long after leaving the building. Overall, an almost perfect theatre event!

@tiffanykate09: Birdsong at the Comedy Theatre. Beautifully played, wonderful story, innovative design.

@Sami_luu: Reasons To be Cheerful at Theatre Royal Stratford East cos inclusivity, wonderful storytelling and energy. Access for all…

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My Theatre 2010 Hopes – Did They Happen?

Posted on 31 December 2010 by Jake Orr

On 31st of December 2009 I wrote an article entitled ‘The Theatre of 2010 – My Hopes‘ which was a take on the ‘Best of…’ articles which seem to creep up every year in newspapers, websites and magazines. Instead of writing the best of 2010, I’m going back to this article, to see if any of them have been met, surpassed my hopes or indeed failed. Topics raised included environmentally friendly theatres, young peoples voices, and the use of social media.

#1 Continued West End Ticket Sales
It’s hard to judge the impact of ticket sales as there are currently no reports out to suggest that the West End suffered or gained from 2010. I can only imagine that from the success of 2009, it will be on the up. If the Kids Week statistics are anything to go by, which saw more than 16,000 tickets being sold and an extension of the scheme due to demand, then we’re on track to have another year of growth in the West End. Recession or not, theatre is still being loved by all. The real excitement will come in 2012 with the Olympics.

#2 Lighting in the lime light
Aside from the terrible pun, I wanted to see lighting designers getting more credit for their work. Their craft is a very simple, yet completely mediocre and complicated one to achieve. How to make something on stage look good, or else stopping it all going in the dark. Whilst I’ve not noticed an increase in critical praise of lighting designers’ work, I have on numerous occasions (here for example) highlighted the work of the lighting designers giving them the praise they deserve. So perhaps it’s not the done thing but I’m sure I could get someone interested to give a detailed review of lighting in the shows they see, but is that what people want to read? The quest goes on…

#3 Young people breaking through
Thinking about this previous remark of wanting to see more young people having a voice and discussion on theatre is a bit ironic. I had pointed out the existence of AYT as a place where I was doing this, but little did I think that it would end up being the place where this ‘revolution’ would take place. AYT has been growing, we have 4 journalists, 5 bloggers, 15 reviewers, all young and starting conversations on theatre and the arts. If that isn’t a break through I don’t know what is. Other highlights included If I Ruled The World Festival at the BAC, the Takeover Festival at the York Theatre Royal, Run Rabbit Run at the Theatre Royal Haymarket. Are young people starting to have their share on the stage?

#4 Internships On Top
If anything Internships are still running throughout theatres, but have also been under increasing pressure and criticism/criticism for their conduct throughout 2010. Are they exploiting young people, or valuable learning tools for engaging in the arts sector? The Future Jobs scheme opened up brilliant opportunities for apprentices and training programs across theatres – these being paid too. Sadly the Future Jobs scheme has been cut by the Government, at a great loss to young people. So what of the average internship? Well, I still support them, knowing the benefits of them myself, but they need the governments backing to offer paid opportunities to anyone, and not just those who are unemployed. AYT still maintains our list of theatre internships.

#5 Ecofriendly

I honestly believe that in a world where we are racked with a global warming crisis (despite it dying down in the media), theatres had to pull their weight in becoming more environmentally friendly. I had praised the work of the Arcola Theatre as “one of the leading theatres in tackling the green initiative” with their Arcola Energy project. My hope was to see other theatres and organisations taking an example from the Arcola and adapting it for themselves. 2010 saw the launch of the EcoVenue Scheme by Theatres Trust. A collection of 12 theatres became the first to be accepted onto the scheme with the aim of improving green initiatives and making their venues a more environmentally building. The EcoVenue Scheme has gone from strength to strength and now includes 48 venues. Verdict: A huge success, and whilst it’s still early days, the involvement of The Theatres Trust to begin this process is outstanding.

#6 Social Media For Better
I don’t think anyone could have predicted just how much Social Media would influence the way in which theatres interacted with their audiences in 2010. Whole marketing plans now include social media strategies to work better at the communication between theatres and their audiences. There have of course been some cock-ups along the way (National Theatre Twitter Muck Up) but there have been some effective uses of social media to truly push boundaries. I’m talking about of course Such Tweet Sorrow, the most adventerous thing the RSC has actually done for many years. Yes I hated it, but no one has come close to it since – unless you count Blast Theory’s SMS Drama. If 2010 was a good year for social media then 2011 is looking to be the year that real adventures and excitement is being made, and hopefully AYT will be able to report on each and everyone of them.

#7 The London Festival Fringe
I typed this name out, and failed to suppress my laughter. I had vowed that I wanted to see this London Festival which was attempting to rival the Edinburgh Fringe Festival to either “completely flop or completely blow all our minds”, the reality is neither. I remained in London during August putting on my own show as part of the Camden Fringe, and I have to say that not once did I hear of the London Festival Fringe. It did little to blow away the cob-webs of the London Fringe scene as promised. I had also hoped for a “better website, better organisation, and better ideas”, and this was not received. The website still looks horrendous, I’ve heard nothing but headaches over the way the LFF is managed and there were no ideas to make it any different than a copy-cat version of other cities. Verdict: A disappointing, but predictable outcome. The London Festival Fringe failed to leave it’s mark, or indeed ruffle any theatre loving people into a state of “we love London Theatre”. Back to the drawing board yes?

Did you have a hope for 2010? Was it met or more to the point disappointingly missed altogether? 2011 is going to be an exciting year, where theatres push further in their work with the recent funding cuts, and the need to become more ‘transparent’ in their campaigns and organisations.

Image by Andy Bird.

Jake Orr

Jake Orr

Jake is the Artistic Director and Founder of A Younger Theatre. He is a freelance writer and blogger, a theatre marketer and a digital producer. He is also Co-Curator of Dialogue.

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The Theatre of 2010 – My Hopes

Posted on 31 December 2009 by Jake Orr

Whilst people are making their New Year Resolutions, and institutes are celebrating what 2009 held for theatre listing the best of the best, and even the worse of the worse… I’m looking beyond all of this. We’ve already seen several Hot Tips appearing for theatre in 2010, and with new season announces each week the anticipation for the first big sellers is getting exciting. For me, I’m hoping 2010 will see the start of change in theatre.

So without further hesitation, here are A Younger Theatres’ Hopes for Theatre in 2010…

#1 Continued West End Ticket Sales – Recession was a hot topic on everyone’s lips during 2009. We saw numerous companies go into Administration and disappear off our high streets. Purses and wallets were firmly kept shut, yet somehow the West End saw an increase in ticket sales and remarkably out riding the recession. They say that theatre is a form of escapism and perhaps audiences were inclined to spend their money on musicals and plays to forget their woes. Whatever the reason, let’s hope that 2010 continues with the sales and theatre shows us what it is really made of during finical crisis.

#2 Lighting In The Lime Light – The forgotten talent in theatre. I hope that in 2010 lighting gets the recognition that it readily deserves, that critics take up their pen and paper and focus on how these wonderful shows they are writing about are seen through the designs painstakingly made by lighting designers. It’s as if this area of theatre gets completely lost in the lime light of the actors who are being lit. Lighting is atmospheric, stunning and highly creative – so lets see people talking about it more, instead of leaving it in the dark. (Let’s also hope the lighting puns/jokes stop too… lime light?! What was I thinking?)

#3 Younger People Breaking Through – The very nature of this blog is for myself to have a platform to express my thoughts and feelings on something that I completely adore. I admit wholeheartedly I am young, at 21 years old, and writing about theatre in the best fashion I can. 2009 has taught me that there is a gap within theatre that is slowly being filled with the younger generations, be it through youth theatres gaining greater success, or the new breed of playwrights getting younger. What I hope for though is that we start to see the written form of the younger generations as critics such as myself having a greater platform in discussing both theatre and the arts.  We might not have the many years of theatre under our belts like Billington, but we do come with passion and a whole new point of view. 2010, let it be the Year of the Younger Generations!

#4 Internships On Top – The recession might not have dampened ticket sales in the West End but jobs in the arts are drying up, where a single advertisement can get several hundred people applying. 2009 saw the boom in the Internship, something I discuss here. My hopes for 2010 is for Internships to continue with the increasing number of applicants but also to begin to evolve with this demand. Internships allow for much learning, but lets not squash that learning by it becoming the norm. Let 2010 keep Internships on top form.

#5 Ecofriendly Theatre – Our climate is changing, but what are theatres doing about it? The Arcola Theatre is one of the leading theatres in taking the green initiative and adapting their theatre to tackle climate change. I hope that 2010 sees other theatres taking up the greener side of theatre – LED Lights anyone? What more, I’d like to see bigger theatres doing their bit and proposing how they will tackle a more enviromentally friendly theatre for 2010.

#6 Social Media For Better - Phenomenons such as Facebook and Twitter have changed the way theatres are now engaging with their audiences. We saw the first devised opera through the means of Twitter – a great collaboration between audience and the Royal Opera House. Twitter has enabled theatres to tell us more, to give insights into what lies behind the walls, deep in the offices and backstage areas. It has allowed voices to emerge from the depths of theatres. Let’s hope 2010 brings more engagement with audiences through the joys of Social Media, and better improvement on how it is effectively used in marketing campaigns.

#7 The London Fringe Festival – The talk of the town after an announcement was made that there is to be the London Fringe Festival in August 2010. What can I say to this? My hope is simply this: The organisers realise that their attempts at putting on a Fringe Festival in London during August when the Edinburgh Fringe Festival is taking place is barbaric. If they want to make this a success, they have to base their model on something that is not already in place. My hope for 2010 is that this festival either completely flops or completely blows all our minds. Whatever the outcome – let it be a lesson learnt. (Let’s also hope for a better website, better organisation, and better ideas for this 2010 Fringe Festival…)

So here are a few of my hopes for the Theatre of 2010… what are your hopes?

Jake Orr

Jake Orr

Jake is the Artistic Director and Founder of A Younger Theatre. He is a freelance writer and blogger, a theatre marketer and a digital producer. He is also Co-Curator of Dialogue.

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