Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Howard Barker's theatre company defunded in the UK's fervor for the Olympics:

Guardian Unlimited: Arts blog - theatre: The Olympics killed my theatre company

My theatre company, the Wrestling School, was to have celebrated its 20th anniversary as an independent group next year. In 1988 its first production, The Last Supper, marked the beginning of a new method of performing my texts, often perceived as difficult and unconventional. In the subsequent years, with what developed into a casual ensemble of actors, designers and musicians united in a commitment to this form of theatre, a style was developed and refined over a range of plays that subsequently entered the international repertoire.

The process of alteration in the method necessarily followed profound changes in the texts, and the process, I feel, was neither tired nor redundant. When we applied for an Arts Council grant this year, it was to mark a further drastic switch in form, this time to a swift and nearly wordless series of 40 texts played in two hours. Yet at the end of last week The Wrestling School was destroyed by the Arts Council's decision - for reasons entirely without artistic value - not to award the grant, following the massive cut in its allocation to service the crisis of the Olympic Games. The squeeze on arts funding is presumably the reason behind the Arts Council's removal of support for artist development, which has been the grounds for our funding over the last 20 years.

This execution of a thriving and innovative company was judged to be legitimate by the officers of the Arts Council. That their operating criteria for providing funds are now entirely unrelated to artistic excellence is still not widely understood in the theatre world. Sociological, therapeutic, essentially political objectives entirely dominate the decision-making process. The Wrestling School has only its reputation, its creative will, and its achievement to recommend it in this withering climate.

11:59 AM