26 March 2012
Posted in Theatre
In an extract from his new book, Arnold Wesker argues that many artistic directors are in a state of denial
(Photo of Arnold Wesker by Leon Kreel)
My contention is that there is no such institution as ‘a writer’s theatre’; I speak with the authority of one whose first five plays were performed in the Royal Court - probably the first theatre to lay claim that it was a theatre for writers.
Of course, every theatre that mounts a play could be described as a writer’s theatre because what is offered, whether by commercial management or state-subsidised management, is written by a writer! But we all know what the description implies: ‘A writer’s theatre’ is the boast of an artistic directorship that wishes its policy to be understood as one that gives priority consideration to new writing by new writers. Not, note, a policy simply of new writing but new writing by new or newish writers, a policy that could be termed ‘ageism’.
The Royal Court, the Bush, the Young Vic and many others lay claim to being ‘a writer’s theatre’. But is it true? Can it be true? What really can it mean? Let’s look a little more closely at the boast. We know it doesn’t mean that writers read and choose the plays that will fill each season’s offerings. It certainly can’t mean — to go to the ridiculous extreme — that anyone with a first play can knock at the theatre’s door and expect it to be performed; but might it mean that a playwright with a track record could expect his or her next play to be performed? Apart from Sir Alan Ayckbourn, who was the Artistic Director of the Library Theatre in Scarborough (retired in 2009), where his plays were premiered, I know of few others where a writer has such power of entry.
30 March 2012
Posted in Podcasts
Available as a podcast on iTunes, or via the Writers' Guild app for iPhone and iPad.