The dramatic situation in Stratford upon Avon

The dramatic situation in Stratford upon AvonThe dramatic situation in Stratford upon Avon has become a common sight on social media (including print). To see various organisations pleading for their very existence is very sad. Bodies one thought that were invulnerable and would go on for ever, are reduced to pleading for funds, desperate to keep-going and still be there when this is all over.

In wealthy Stratford upon Avon the situation is of course no different from the rest of the country, except of course it is Stratford upon Avon, the Bard’s home town. And everybody knows that theatre courses through its very being. So the fact that the loudest survival-type noises come from the theatrical quarter both professional and amateur should be of no great surprise.. However, for me personally any sympathy that I might have had initially has dissolved pretty quickly when I read some of the claims that are obviously designed to raise the aforementioned sympathy level to 11 and get folks to dip into their well-worn pockets.

For instance, there appears to be a lot of weight put upon the very useful word ‘Community’. (A bit like the RSC use the word ‘education’ to fill their coffers – another story). ‘Community’ used in the sense, as far as I understand it, that we are as somehow ‘one’. That we are all ‘theatre-people’ and care passionately about one another. That so-and-so theatre group was formed out of thin air not only for the benefit of ‘the community’  i.e. punters, but more than that, formed for the struggling base of performers/purveyors. Galling to say the least.

For instance, the suggestion that prices have been kept at reasonable levels so that the local purveyors of theatre (in all its forms) could benefit is something I must have missed. Not only does it suggest (falsely), that it is relatively cheap to hire a space to rehearse and put on a production, it, worse than that, suggests that all along there has been dialogue. That those in a better position (both financially and with er…’friends in high places) have reached out to their Brothers and Sisters in Arts to enable rehearsal and performance space at reasonable rates. This has not been my experience. In fact, I would go as far to say that there is a great divide between those companies with membership and therefore money, and those of us who operate on a play to play system without a pot to piss in. In short, encouragement (of any sort) would be nice.

I ought to say at this point that I do, sort of, understand.

Once a theatre group has had some ‘success’ it becomes more and more difficult to plan. The urge is to put as much drama on as possible. Which it turn eats up all the empty space that might be free for rehearsal if said successful theatre group hadn’t been so greedy. To put it in another way, it obviously becomes more difficult to find empty spaces that would allow fellow drama people to share in that success, as said ‘successful drama group’ would be eating up free space for their own non-stop production schedule.

My complaint is, don’t promise, or pretend to promise that your particular enterprise is for the benefit of all when in fact that is a damn near impossible goal to achieve. Be honest.

There is all sorts of drama going on in this town. Which is great.

Although I am a great believer in drama that relates to the human condition and holds up a mirror to our behaviour and like a parable maybe offer a solution, I also see the reason behind what I would call ‘impersonation drama’. Drama for example, that offers copies of successful TV sit-coms, that sort of thing. Although I dislike that stuff intensely, I see the point, which is quite simply ‘entertainment’ and a good night out without too much thinking. I am very aware that this branch gives a lot of enjoyment to a lot of people, so until I begin to understand a little more, I will zip it.

The thing is, and perhaps the whole point of this rather angry article (or sour grapes as some will no doubt call it) is… we could perhaps learn from each other if only we would talk to each other.

If we could get some kind of Federation of Drama Companies on the go, where we could exchange ideas and perhaps more importantly, information (even equipment-I have some lights) then a real community could be formed that would indeed benefit us (inc the audiences) all. As it is, in all the years my little company has been going (on and off) it is only recently I have had a chat with another (albeit wealthier) company concerning the problems they have faced over the past year..

I guess in the end I will be accused of being bitter and twisted and to that charge part of me pleads, ‘guilty’. I just think it’s about time in the long theatrical history of this great little town, that the surprisingly large number of drama/dance etc groups that exist, swallow their pride and make a real and genuine attempt to get together.


the dramatic situation in Stratford upon Avon.


Contrived card days

I gave up on contrived card days years ago. The pain that made me award Valentine’s day the top prize for ‘most unnecessary day ever’, still sticks in my mind. A brain-stain that I know will never leave me.

I was a young man feeling in a romantic mood (randy) and had purchased a single rose off an authentic looking gypsy woman for the princely sum of one pound. Wrapped in a dark polythene covering of romantic smoky blue, the red of the rose was startling and bright.

It was (so I thought) guaranteed to melt the heart of the lucky lady (I can’t actually remember who it was – there have been so many), and I knew I would get what I wanted without too much effort, (I was young and foolish). She would swoon (there’s a word you don’t hear much these days), and be mine in a flash.

This over-confidence lasted up until the moment I handed her the package and the red rose promptly detached itself from the stalk it had never been attached to in the first place.

To cut a long story about a short evening er…short, along with the card that was supposed to play Volare but squeaked to a halt after the first ‘O’, I ended up looking a complete idiot or as the lady described me,  ‘A dick-head’.(Note: A pattern that was to follow my romantic pathways for the rest of my life).

Since those early disastrous days, I have always resented the designated card-buying days set by none-other than the scheming and greedy card companies themselves.

Especially Mother’s Day.

Expensive and unnecessary.   I loved my mum most days of the year (except when she made me sit in darkness for hours on end, in the cupboard under the stairs). She didn’t need a padded piece of throwaway cardboard in the shape of a heart to know that I loved her. And anyway, I tried it once and I failed.

My dear old mum never forgave me for going my own way and choosing a card that I thought carried an interesting painting of white Lilies. It was different and unlike the usual rubbish I had seen. It was in my mind classy and printed on something that looked like it wouldn’t disintegrate in the rain.

OK so it was a condolence card. A ‘sorry for your loss card’. How the hell was I supposed to know? It was plain inside because apparently you were supposed to compose you own heart-felt message although not necessarily, ‘Love you Mum. Have a great day’.

My family I think were at least partly to blame for my hatred of these contrived card days. I remember receiving cards that I knew were for me because they said so. ‘SON’ embossed clearly at the top of the flimsy piece of cheap cardboard in an effort to remind me who I was. You can still find them stacked up in W H Smiths in the section marked ‘IDIOTS’ stating the bloody obvious…’DAUGHTER’, ‘MUM’, ‘GRANDAUGHTER’. I recently saw ‘STEPFATHER’ for God’s sake.

Don’t get me wrong. There’s definitely a place for celebratory message cards. But I would always suggest you make them yourself. If you have to put an effort in, it means more.  And if you are not the handy sort, I’m sure there’s an episode of ‘Blue Peter’ somewhere on You-Tube where the unfortunately-named Peter Purves shows you how to make a card with just a toilet roll, a tampon and a roll of stick-back plastic.

The Beast from The East

I can’t begin to tell you how disappointed I am with The Beast from The East. More a Pussy than a Beast.

We were promised howling winds and snowstorms and what do we get, a couple of pathetic Narnia type flurries and a snowball’s chance in hell of making a er…snowball. All in all, I feel cheated.

I was on standby, shovel in hand ready to clear driveways (for old people) and spread salt but nothing. I was ready to get the dogs out and build a log cabin if necessary but as I said…nothing, zilch. I’d wasted a whole day watching endless episodes of ‘Yukon men’ of whatever it’s called in the hope of picking up a few survival tips. The pages of notes I took on how to survive a week in a snow drift are of now of no use whatsoever. Did I say, how cheated I feel.

What use is a weather forecast if it’s all lies, rumours and false flags. I am so angry that I could write a letter of complaint to the BBC…in fact…

Dear BBC,

I wish to complain about the total inaccuracy of the weather forecast especially the bit that appertains to Stratford upon Avon. I have been watching the BBC for most of my life and it is obvious that standards have dropped tremendously. You should know that if Nadhim Zahawi wasn’t my MP I would write to him.

It is all very well using complicated graphics and attractive personnel (both men and women) to deliver the forecast, but the glamourous approach means nothing if what is delivered does not come to pass.  Your use of resident eye-candy i.e.

the beast from the eastCarol Kirkwood  the beast from the eastShafali Ozathe beast from the eastThomasz Shafernaker

…(for the ladies and the homosexual population) are an obvious ploy to take our minds off the sad fact that predicting the weather is beyond you and your organisation. I am one of those not easily fooled and can see through your little game.

While I’m about it, I would also like to complain about the repartee that is commonly shared between newscaster and weather person and remind you that both parties have a serious job to do. I feel it would be wise to leave the jokes and light-hearted chatter to games show hosts and those paid vast amounts of license fee money, like Graham Norton.  I would feel better about the whole situation if you gave it up for a bad job and admitted you are devoid of any skill in the weather department.

I remain your obedient servant,

The Stratfordian.the stratfordian

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