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.’

Sheffield Theatres dominate UK Theatre Awards 2013

This year's UK Theatre Awards ceremony took place at London's Guildhall

This year’s UK Theatre Awards ceremony took place at London’s Guildhall

The UK Theatre Awards took place at a lunchtime ceremony on 20 October at London’s Guildhall. The awards, which honour regional theatre productions from across the UK, are run by The Theatrical Management Association.

Sheffield Theatres came away with four prizes from this year’s awards for their productions Bull from Mike Bartlett (best new play), Tim Firth’s This is My Family (best musical production; best supporting performance) and The Full Monty (best touring production).

The three prizes for this year’s acting categories were all awarded to  women: Siân Phillips was awarded best supporting performance for This is My Family, Janie Dee came away with the prize for best performance in a musical for Hello, Dolly! and Cush Jumbo was given the title of best performance in a play for her role in A Doll’s House.

The award for best show for children and young people was shared between The Northern Stage’s production of The Borrowers and Mister Holgado from children-specialist theatre Unicorn.

The new addition to this year’s awards was the My Theatre Matters! prize for most welcoming theatre, which was awarded to Exeter’s 60-seat Bike Shed Theatre. The award’s shortlist comprised on 55,000 public votes cast. The winner was chosen by dividing the number of votes for each theatre by its capacity.

Simon Callow was presented with The Stage’s award for outstanding contribution to British theatre. TMA president Rachel Tackley said to The Stage of the tribute to Callow: ‘I am delighted that the TMA has recognised the prolific work of Simon, who has had a vital and lasting influence on theatre stages all over the country and been a great ambassador for British theatre during a long and illustrious career.’

Winners:

Best new playBull by Mike Bartlett (Sheffield Theatres)

Best performance in a play – Cush Jumbo, A Doll’s House (Royal Exchange Theatre, Manchester)

Best supporting performance – Siân Phillips, This is My Family (Sheffield Theatres)

Best musical productionThis is My Family (Sheffield Theatres)

Best performance in a musical – Janie Dee, Hello, Dolly! (Curve, Leicester)

Best show for children and young peopleThe Borrowers (Northern Stage, Newcastle); Mister Holgado (Unicorn Theatre)

Best director – Blanche McIntyre, The Seagull (Headlong; Nuffield Southampton; Derby Theatre)

Best designThe Accrington Pals, Jonathan Fensom and Charles Balfour (Royal Exchange Theatre, Manchester)

Best Touring ProductionThe Full Monty (Sheffield Theatres)

My Theatre Matters! UK’s most welcoming theatre – The Bike Shed Theatre, Exeter

The Stage award for outstanding contribution to British theatre – Simon Callow

For the full list of winners, visit www.tmauk.org.