Theatre casualties in Arts Council national portfolio announcement

Richard Frame (Hermia), Thomas Padden (Theseus) & Sam Swainsbury (Demetrius)

Propeller in performance: the theatre company’s future is thrown into doubt without Art Council funding

Arts Council England (ACE) has revealed the organisations who will, and will not, be part of their national portfolio for 2015–18. All-male Shakespeare company Propeller, Orange Tree Theatre in Richmond and radical touring company Red Ladder have not made ACE’s portfolio list, resulting in loss of funding.

Propeller were told by the ACE, ‘’We decided that, taking into account the quality and level of your artform provision available nationally, we preferred other applications.’ Responding to ACE’s comments, the company and Propeller’s director Edward Hall said: ‘Whilst a lack of commitment from ACE to high-quality touring theatre on a financial basis is perhaps understandable, Propeller’s national reach and quality of work cannot be called into question as our track record amply demonstrates. I am sorry that this decision will prevent us from continuing to pursue our national touring programme which has delighted so many thousands of people and which will prevent our company from pursuing its commitment to delivering affordable, high-quality drama in the regions.’

News of Orange Tree Theatre’s funding loss from the ACE came as the new artistic director Paul Miller began his first day in the role. He told BBC news: ‘I think the big, national contradictory pressures that are on the Arts Council were just so great that something had to give – and on that occasion it was us.

‘Once upon a time, the Orange Tree was a fledgling start-up company that had its first Arts Council funding. For new younger companies to get into the system, it means that existing organisations cannot simply take for granted that they will continue to be regularly funded. There are still many ways in which we can continue to take wonderful theatre in our lovely space. We just have to find a financially different way of doing it.’

Other organisations face smaller cuts: The Barbican will lose 18% of funding, while The Southbank Centre, National Theatre and Royal Shakespeare Company will each receive a 3.6% reduction.

Some theatre organisations enjoyed a boost, with increases in funding for Unicorn of 28% and Hull Truck of 46%; welcome news for Hull Truck following the ACE’s assessment of the theatre company earlier this year as facing ‘immediate and serious financial risk’.

This year saw a 2% rise in the allocation of funding to regional companies, with 47% dedicated to organisations in London and 53% to those outside of the capital.

ACE chair Sir Peter Bazalgette said of the portfolio announcements: ‘We are in the premier league of creative nations and this portfolio will keep us on top in an era of tight funding. We can delight in our arts organisations and museums for the sheer inspiration they bring to our daily lives as well as their contribution to the creative sector. I’m proud that we’ve been able to deliver such a strong and well balanced portfolio.

‘With 46 new entrants to the national portfolio, with increased funding for grants for the arts, and with creative people and places being maintained at its current level over the next period, this settlement represents a commitment by Arts Council England to new talent and building England’s arts and culture capacity all over the country. When funding is declining you have to set priorities – this we have done.’

Theatre Awards UK 2011

Bertie Carvel in Matilda the Musical - winner of Best Performance in a Musical

Yesterday saw the Theatrical Management Association’s 2011 Theatre Awards UK take place at the Banqueting House, Whitehall. The awards, which were relaunched this year, honoured all aspects of the theatre world, from those on stage to the people excelling in the management and promotion of the theatres themselves.

The Stage Award for Outstanding Contribution to British Theatre was awarded to Sir Peter Hall in recognition of his remarkable and immeasurable influence upon the shape of modern British theatre. The RSC’s Matilda the Musical – just about to start its run in London’s West End – received two awards – that of Best Performance in a Musical for Bertie Carvel playing Miss Trunchbull (pictured) and Best Musical Production.

Other successes included Edward Hall’s Propeller Productions, who were awarded Best Touring Production for Richard III and The Comedy of Errors, and Michael Sheen (currently starring as Hamlet at the Young Vic) who won the category of Best Director jointly with Bill Mitchell for their work on National Theatre Wales’ production of The Passion.

The award for Best Show for Children and Young People went to White, a Catherine Wheels production, which showed at Theatre Royal, Bath. The production is currently being performed in New York.

The Lyric, Hammersmith were recognised for the Achievement in Marketing, and the Theatre Royal, Stratford East were named Most Welcoming Theatre.