For a decade now I’ve been trying to make work happen in my home town yet now that I’ve started to concentrate on the ‘performer’ again, rather than the facilitator and producer, I find I am leaving, yet again, to show my work. This year I shall be in Bristol, North Devon and Exeter, at least it’s the South West but, still no space (and by that I mean bricks and mortar) for an alternative theatre scene in Plymouth, my home town and, sorry Bristol, but the real South West.
When we first started to exchange ideas for ‘making something happen’ in the city in which we lived, we were influenced by our backgrounds as performers, theatre makers and culture seekers in other cities across the world. What we found to be lacking in Plymouth were opportunities for the talented emergent and established artists of the city and region to develop their work, work together (or even discover each other‘s existence), and to have their work showcased locally. How could the city’s cultural community grow and flourish if so many of its artists left, or felt the need to make work elsewhere, once it reached a certain level of development?
The Hidden City Handbook by Rachel Aspinwall, Ruth Mitchell & Phil Smith
These words were written in 2008 and six years on it seems there is still a need to make a vibrant theatre community in Plymouth, even more so since a new generation of theatre students have arrived in the city. Frustratingly many have attempted the challenge only to give up and leave for more cultural places and communities. Up the line in Bristol there are a handful of performer collectives, working from spaces that have been given to them, possibly by a sympathetic council officer who understands their needs. Plymouth?
Regular readers, I apologize for the almost identical grumblings here, which are similar to a past post. Previously I was going on about a freelance community and slowly but surely we are coming out of our corners and making ourselves known to one another. Now we need space to make or, be visible enough so that the new Plymouth Theatre Scene are on the radar and those keyholders will offer to open the door.
BUT hope is in sight, not just because there are people who want to make this happen but a new theatre space is being built on the University campus with two studio theatres and space to experiment. I am keeping my fingers well and truly crossed that it will open its doors to the established theatre makers in Plymouth, so that we can start to be visible and create a cultural buzz but, just as importantly, so that it will make theatre and performance students stay and be part of an emerging scene. Students learn just as much, or more, by watching other work and doing. It’s taken its time but there could be a light… watch this space.