What do they know of theatre who only theatre know?
Friday, 14 May 2010
With the formation this week of a new government, led by Dave and Nick, and the appointment, as expected, of Jeremy Hunt as the new Culture Secretary, there’s much talk of inevitable cuts. Clearly, these are not a good thing, and, as critic Michael Billington argues in the Guardian, they will be counter-productive. But while it is easy to protest against the coming cuts in arts subsidy, perhaps we also need to look again at the role that state-funding plays in creating the social atmosphere of Britain today. Surely, it can’t have escaped notice that the Arts Council, with its empty rhetoric and busybody initiatives to support access, diversity and value-for-money, is helping to create the idea that the main role of the arts is social engineering, and that the main value of creativity is economic success. These were the great New Labour mantras. With the dawning of the new age of austerity, by all means protest against cuts, but also ask: what kind of state-funded arts do we actually want?
Aleks Sierz is author of In-Yer-Face Theatre: British Drama Today (Faber, 2001), The Theatre of Martin Crimp (Methuen Drama, 2006), John Osborne’s Look Back in Anger (Continuum, 2008), Rewriting the Nation: British Theatre Today (Methuen Drama, 2011) and Modern British Playwriting: The 1990s (Methuen Drama, 2012). He is editor of The Methuen Drama Book of 21st Century British Plays (2010) and co-editor (with Martin Middeke and Peter Paul Schnierer) of The Methuen Drama Guide to Contemporary British Playwrights (2011). He is a member of the UK Critics' Circle and a Fellow of the Royal Society for the Arts. A journalist, broadcaster and theatre critic at large, he is also Senior Research Fellow at Rose Bruford College and teaches postwar British theatre at the London branch of Boston University.