Since I arrived in Stratford upon Avon in 1971 I have tried on a number of occasions to er…’get things going’. In the early days it was music and as time as passed and staying with entertainment, I found myself promoting theatre. I started with a couple of other blokes promoting our own theatre company (The Bird of Prey Theatre Company) and ended up with my own little and rarely seen ‘The New Stuff Theatre Company’. To cut a long story short, I was under the mistaken impression that the natural home for drama and other forms of entertainment would be Stratford upon Avon. I was wrong.
The point I’m trying to make here is how difficult it is and how it has always been in this, what you might think, a theatrical town to actually put anything on. OK, so its not easy to put things together in any town, but here, in of all places, Stratford upon Avon you might expect at the very least to encounter enthusiasm. WRONG…
Before I go any further let me put your suspicions to bed and give you the chance to stop reading now.
Before you have to suffer any further I admit that yes, this is ‘a letter’ of complaint. A letter from the permanently baffled. What follows has been said many, many, many times before. I’m sorry but I’m saying it again…and like many good mysteries it has yet to be solved.
The question is this…
‘Why is it so difficult to get any form of entertainment that is not Shakespeare, on in Stratford upon Avon?’
We don’t have to look very far to find thriving artistic communities in other towns. Leamington Spa and Warwick seem to do ok in terms of venues for music and theatre, so what is about Stratford upon Avon that makes it a cultural desert?
For instance, where are the spaces, the stages that might welcome new drama? Does everything have to be an estate agent, a restaurant or a coffee shop. Of course there’s a place for them in any thriving town but Stratford upon Avon is, or at least should be, special. If it’s the home of Shakespeare, then it follows it is also the home of theatre. And that in the name of the man himself, means all theatre.
A cloud hangs over Stratford upon Avon. A cloud, a fog, a wet blanket so thick and heavy that exploration, experimentation has been totally stifled.
I’m afraid blame Shakespeare.
Shakespeare and all those who have the power to wield his name willy-nilly and lean heavily on him to keep the gravy train rolling. Shakespeare’s gang. All of whom have a ‘I’m alright Jack’ chokehold around the artistic neck of my hometown.
What I’d like to see…
(Holds breath and says very quickly)…I’d like to see a *moratorium on Shakespeare and his work at the RSC. A pause, maybe in the form of a festival of drama. In Shakespeare’s name an exploration of drama in its many forms performed not only at the theatre but at spaces around town. From traditional to experimental. In short…A CELEBRATION.
Is this too much to ask?
(Don’t answer that).
As I write there has been, thanks to a couple of new faces in the Public House Regime in Stratford upon Avon a revival in the music scene. Bands are being seen and heard.
Long may it last.