Dear Erica Whyman

By The Stratfordian | May 23, 2020


Sometimes I write these things in haste  (or in a drunken haze) and on second reading they turn out to be not as clear as I want them to be.  In which case I will have another go and rewrite or give up, apologise and retreat with my tail between my legs. Either way, if there is a change I will post ‘UPDATED’ at the top of the page. This is one such occasion.

Dear Erica Whyman,

the stratfordian

‘Theatre will recover from this crisis…but it will just take time’says Erica in the Stage…except it won’t. At least not for the Royal Shakespeare Theatre (Erica’s employer). Their many benefactors will make sure of that.

Meanwhile in the real world, theatres will go to the wall in their thousands (are there that many in the UK?). It’s the little folk who are really going to suffer. For the big guns of the subsidised theatre, it’s a hiccup.

I have always found it sad that the giants of the industry somehow lose sight of what theatre really is. Personally, I think its to do with the money they receive and the sense of risk that they lose, especially when they’re as completely cushioned as the RSC is.

It’s the story telling that drives  all theatre. Story telling is its heartbeat. A good story is what drives the blood around its own life-giving body and it’s life-giving because it concerns us all. It’s about us. Our Communities and the way we live. It’s about who we are and who we hope to become. It’s about the lessons we learn looking through someone else’s eyes.

However, when that story-telling body becomes huge and exclusive, its story telling capabilities become sterile only relevant (if at all) to those who can afford to listen, then obviously, something is wrong.

In my opinion the RSC lost its way sometime ago.

But, don’t get me wrong, I do understand. It’s a business now, and story-telling is the least of its concerns. Its heart has hardened (I know, I’m a romantic fool)  because of the change in its priorities. In short, it gave up on the Community some years ago because the Community in general cannot supply it with its greatest need, profit.

Maybe…all is not lost?

Perhaps now, while it’s in cold storage the RSC could be rethinking its strategy and reminding itself of what theatre is for. That there might be some way it could slowly, craftily back out of (some of) its deal with the devil. Maybe, just maybe…there’s a slim chance that the RSC may not be totally lost. Perhaps there’s something it could do to save at least part of its theatrical soul?

Let me make a suggestion that might give a clearer idea of what I’m rattling on about.

Take ‘The Dell’ for instance. A wonderful gesture (or a sugar lump?) from the Royal Shakespeare allowing amateur theatre companies to use its open air ‘facilities’ and present their own take on Shakespeare.

Here’s an idea.

Why not a professional production now and again at the Dell? Or even excerpts from the seasons plays themselves. The RSC could, to fit their business model, even think of it as a sort of advertisement. Or better still a treat, a surprise, a thank you to Stratford upon Avon.

A gift for the community and something to show that they (the RSC) haven’t drifted too far of the beaten track.

A little something to show that they haven’t lost the thirst for ‘real theatre’. You know what I mean, theatre for the people.


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