The Plight of Regional Theatre

Regional theatre is having a tough time coping with the effects of cuts in public subsidy and this has led to a paucity of serious drama. Let me give the example of Yorkshire and its principal playhouses – I ignore theatres like the Leeds Grand, the Bradford Alhambra, the Hull New Theatre and the York Opera House which host large scale touring productions, mainly musicals. The Northern Broadsides company indefatigably do their rounds of Shakespeare and other classics, the Hull Truck hosts some interesting work and above all there is Sheffield where the Crucible, in association with the Lyceum, continues to provide patrons with a good range of home grown and touring productions. But the other main venues appear to be in a bad way. Since the pantomime season ended, the West Yorkshire Playhouse at Leeds has had no plays staged in its two auditoria – there have been dance and other events. Drama will become available again only in March, with an adaptation of Great Expectations in the Quarry and the Damned United (a piece about Brian Clough) in the Courtyard. Note that both these are adaptations from novels. The Theatre Royal York has been closed for renovation, but will reopen in April with Brideshead Revisited, another adaptation from a novel. The Stephen Joseph Theatre Scarborough has been, and will be, without plays until mid April. Yes, you can still find in the smaller theatres or culture centres the occasional serious piece being offered – last week I made a round trip of 140 miles to see David Harrower’s award winning Blackbird in Beverley’s East Riding Theatre. But such possibilities are few and far between. And why, oh why, do theatre companies resort to so many adaptations of other literary forms. Aren’t there enough good real plays available?