John Waterhouse – Playwright and Author

Could the Covid pandemic provide new opportunities for smaller theatre companies?

Anyone with friends and contacts in the arts will have noticed a lot of disquiet on social media in particular by actors, dancers and other performers who are feeling their professions have been denigrated by government ministers as little more than grandiose hobbies with the suggestion that they retrain in the light of the Covid 19 pandemic.

We live in uncertain times in the midst this unprecedented crisis and many industries will have to adapt to new realities. Sadly, a number of theatres and threat companies have already folded leaving the question how will the arts be able to adapt to new realities? The situation for many professional performers remains dire and the future of a great many artistic companies extremely precarious. There just might be a positive outcome to all this for the smaller arts theatre companies.

The large theatres are dominated by well-heeled companies who have tended, not surprisingly, to concentrate on crowd-pleasing shows, often spin-offs of successful Hollywood movies such as ‘Shrek’ or ‘Ghost’, musicals based around established pop and rock music from the Monkeys to the Take That or old stalwarts such plays by the likes of Shakespeare, Chekov and Ayckbourne. All this had meant smaller companies have typically found it hard to out on shows in larger theatres because the venue’s demands of a total hire for a fixed fee.

Smaller, more creative companies have had to rely on fiercely contested grants from the Arts Council, which has often meant a show’s political correctness taking precedence over the quality of the production. The new reality just might mean that smaller independents find theatres more willing to accept profit-share agreements when the pandemic is over, as theatres try to return to normal but with presumably few big companies available to book venues outright. This just might lead to more creative and varied shows coming to all levels of theatre; let’s hope so.