New Year: The Future Of Theatre Is Here
It's the start of a new year and we'd like to say a hello and welcome to our 2019 REP Foundry artists: Siana Bangura, Grace Barrington, Sam Cole, Sophia Griffin, Omar Khan, Rachael Mainwaring, Ashlee E L Roberts and Shane Shambhu.
REP Foundry is our artist development programme and over the coming year the eight artists will have support and space to make new pieces of theatre, receive mentoring from The REP's Associate Directors and attend workshops led by a rich variety of theatre practitioners. Throughout the year, the artists will also get the chance to try their work out in front of an audience in our REP Foundry Nights.
We asked our new REP Foundry artists what they think are the main issues for theatre in the year ahead and what they are particularly excited about for 2019. Here's what they had to say:
Sophia Griffin: “An issue for the industry to address is the importance of making it open and accessible for everyone, both on and off stage and for audiences. For me, performing is ultimately about connecting and people go and see shows when they connect to the story. Until theatre accurately reflects the diversity in society it will not be relevant to everyone.
“There have been some exciting appointments of Artistic Directors in 2018 and I am looking forward to seeing how this will shift the landscape of programmed work. I will also continue to follow initiatives like the Black Ticket Project and Free Radical's Festival of Audacity which have made a big impact in making art more accessible. I can't wait to start work as an artist on REP Foundry, which over the years has been instrumental in championing new voices.”
Rachael Mainwaring: “Without doubt, the biggest issue facing Theatre is the continued cuts to funding. With budgets slashed to the bone, many arts venues are struggling to keep their doors open. Developing new work that is accessible and relevant is a challenge faced by regional theatres across the country.
“I am passionate about theatre being for everyone, serving the whole community, not just the few. I'm excited by projects that champion local talent and explore a variety of stories and viewpoints. I'm lucky to live in a city where theatre makers rise to the challenge. I'm intrigued to see what 2019 brings to the stage.”
Grace Barrington: “For me, new theatre needs to constantly prioritise its audience. This is true politically: representation is meaningless if it only exists in the stories theatres programme and the demographic of the audience doesn't change. But it's also something I think about in relation to my work: the role of the audience in the space of the theatre should be crucial to the success of new writing.
“Theatres should not solely be nests for individual self-expression; nor should they be elite, cultural citadels that ignore their local communities. Instead, writers must create plays that challenge audiences, and which actively experiment with the relationship, and depend on the proximity, between performer and spectator.”
Omar Khan: “I think the next 12 months will lead to a shift in the mass-consciousness of this country, with many people rethinking the definition of 'us' and what it means to be a community as we try and pin down our abstract definitions of borders and unions.
“I think theatre must teach vital lessons on compassion, humility and love. We must shift our inflexible perspectives to see life through fresh eyes, and come to realise that those we call 'other' - be it geographically, politically or socially - are human beings just like us.”
Shane Shambhu: “As our political landscape changes the themes of migration, belonging and identity are looming in the air. At this time, it is important to see and hear new narratives from different voices and backgrounds to give us new perspectives.
“I genuinely believe that theatre has the power to shift the thinking and understanding of the world around us and I'm very much looking forward to 2019 to contribute and paint a larger picture of our cultural make up in today's society by creating theatre that draws on my culturally different artistic language and background.”
Sam Cole: “I believe that one of the main issues facing theatre nationally is the neglect of theatres outside of London. Although London is home to some of the best productions and theatres in the world, I feel that more needs to be done to promote the excellent pieces of theatre shown domestically across the nation.
“I also feel that local talent is often overlooked during the casting process and would love to see more open casting opportunities for up and coming local actors without representation, by doing so I believe that hard-working, gifted creatives from all backgrounds would be able to showcase themselves and improve their chances of progression in the industry.”
Ashlee E L Roberts: “I think one of the biggest problems at the moment in theatre is that it's suffering from 'capital city syndrome'. Regional productions made outside of London are overlooked. As a consequence, creatives from the Midlands feel under pressure to leave in order for their work to be recognised and validated. Beautiful, powerful pieces are being made right here and it's time we started to acknowledge this and believe in our talent.
“2019 is a year of exploring and advancing my art form. REP Foundry gives me a safe space to test out new work amongst like-minded creatives. I feel humbled and blessed to be taking part in this experience.”
Siana Bangura: "Although diversity in the arts is now a conversation at the forefront of most people's minds, like so many important ideas it has come to feel diluted and repetitive. I'm tired of those with the power and resources to change things still doing the bare minimum. We don't need anymore conversations and reports, we need meaningful action.
"Diverse talent is everywhere and you don't need to look too far or too hard to find it. Let artists be artists and give us the space, time, resources and support to create. I'm thrilled that The REP are not passing the buck and are doing just that through the Foundry. I can't wait to have the time and space to write and devise my own work."
REP Foundry is principally supported by the Leverhulme Trust and Esmée Fairbairn Foundation with additional support from Ramps On The Moon.
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