Plymouth independent theatre makers Forge ahead!

In Arts Professional Adrian Vinken, the chief executive of the Theatre Royal Plymouth says that because of the arts funding imbalance between London and the regions ‘[t]he result is a continuous brain drain where talented new artists get a professional introduction in the regions, but are then obliged to head to London, like Dick Whittington, to gain access to the scale of budgets and creative opportunities that are simply unaffordable to regional companies’. This has been the case for as long as I have lived in the South West, around fifteen years. There are over 1,000 graduates in the arts coming out of Plymouth every year, as well as many other emerging performers being educated in their craft through arts organisations in the city. The majority move away, as there is no opportunity for them to make work here and make a small living. I have gone on about this on a couple of occasions here and here but there is a push by a small group of independent theatre makers to change the perception of this and they are making work although up until a few weeks ago they only had a couple of Devon festivals to show the work locally.

So, after the influx of these Plymouth theatre makers at Exeter’s Ignite festival last month the Theatre Royal Plymouth have created a small season called Forge to showcase the work, kicking off with Coffee with Vera. The Lab is the new space for experimental work within the Theatre Royal, created with an Arts Council Capital Grant for investment in theatre buildings. The space can easily seat fifty people and at the moment is adaptable to where the seating can be….except I don’t want to perform Vera in the Lab, it’s still too black boxy for this show. So I have asked if I can use the green room space alongside, a room where the performers can relax and make a drink and that’s exactly why I want to use it. I need to be able to give out tea and coffee and show off my homemade cakes, I need to be able to put my audience into a relaxed frame of mind and even introduce people to one another to start up new friendships because, Vera is a host beyond compare.

‘…via the character of Vera Jockleson, Chair of the Ladies’ Guild and consummate coffee morning hostess – Ruth fuses autobiography and history to create a subtly moving meditation on the nature of identity and heritage’. Belinda Dillon, Exeunt Magazine

Of course the downside is that I wont be able to get as many people into the Green Room so it’s a case of first come etc. It will be interesting to observe how the performance evolves from what was originally a piece of sited performance, and how that evolution progresses as Vera will be venturing out into rural Devon in the Autumn. I will be updating, of course, as this blog is supposed to be all about the research! Now that the Theatre Royal has an experimental space lets hope that funding starts to be distributed more evenly throughout the region therefore giving freelancers more opportunities. To be honest we don’t want a lot we only need a space.

Coffee with Vera is on at the Theatre Royal Plymouth as part of the Forge season on Saturday 5th July at 8pm.

Other shows within Forge are

  • Breakers by Rabblerouse Theatre on July 11/12
  • #BodyProblems by Alexandra Ogando on July 18th
  • Parliament Town by New Model Theatre on July 19th
  • Hardworking People by Junk Shop Theatre on July 25th
  • A Soldiers Sketchbook by Shiona Morton and Bill Wroath on July 26th
  • On Air by Blasted Fiction on Aug 1st
  • Beta 6 hosted by New Model Theatre an evening of work in progress