Anyone reading about Nicolas Kent’s departure from the Tricycle Theatre might be forgiven for thinking that it is not a theatre at all, but a grim lecture hall where the middle classes go to assuage their guilt about the latest political issue, not to be entertained, but to be improved and edified. Nothing could be further from the truth: the Tricycle has produced and hosted prodigious amounts of drama of all kinds.
Whilst Kent himself has been almost universally praised for turning a little known fringe venue into a major player, some have unkindly suggested that he has been playing politics by citing the cuts as his reason for going. After all, why shouldn’t the Tricycle take some pain when everyone else is. But that’s not strictly true, is it? As we have previously noted, there were some last minute changes to the London region of the ‘Arts Council’ portfolio, thanks to the campaigning of London representative Veronica Wadley.
It would make a good tribunal play in itself:
X: Can you explain why you gave a last minute reprieve to the Hampstead Theatre?
X: A theatre that is sandwiched between not two, but three of the most affluent areas in London, namely St John’s Wood, Belsize Park and Hampstead…..
X: And why did you argue for money to be restored to the Orange Tree Theatre in Richmond, the richest borough in London?
Y: No comment
X: Can you clarify whether this was extra money or money taken from other arts organisations
X: I put it to you that by your actions you have deprived other more worthy theatres of money, such as the Tricycle, and that you wanted to shut down a theatre that is critical of Government with its excellent tribunal plays.
Our question is, why should Nicolas Kent stay quiet about the cuts or put up with them? After 27 years, surely he has earned the right to know whether or not a 27% cut is sustainable. It’s not as though the Arts Council hadn’t already informed the Tricycle that it met their criteria and would qualify for funding, and it’s not as though money isn’t available. It’s just that the Government has decided this will be used to encourage philanthropic giving.
Cuts to the arts are not the same as cuts to public services, since the arts are able to give a financial return on investment. The Tricycle regularly sends productions to the West End, and as an early try-out venue for Cameron Mackintosh, must surely have made some contribution to his not inconsiderable wealth. Every year we seem to hear good news about the profitability of West End Theatre, whilst it is a commonplace that the Laurence Olivier Awards tend to be disproportionately given to transfers from the subsidised sector.
In a burst of uncharacteristic sentimentality, here is just a small selection of our most memorable moments at the Tricycle:
- The Cure at Troy – what a refreshing change! A ‘straight’ translation of Sophocles’ ‘Philoctetes’ made by Seamus Heaney, which allows the audience to see the clear resonances with the Irish peace process with a masterful degree of subtlety.
- Once a Catholic – pure ‘Father Ted’, before ‘Father Ted’.
- Stones in his Pockets – one of many successful West End transfers, this play had a whole list of stars queuing up to be in it.
- Four Nights in Knaresborough – a rare chance to see James Purefoy on stage, joined by Johnny Lee Miller (almost) fresh from Trainspotting. Currently being revived at the Southwark Playhouse, this play was a fascinating take on Thomas Becket’s assassination.
- Mill on the Floss – our first ‘experience’ of ‘Shared Experience’ – and what an experience!
- Spice Drum Beat – David Kramer’s follow-up to Kat and the Kings, this exuberant whirlwind tour of the Cape Province, was imaginative and full of energy. We loved comic duo Hot ‘n’ Tot – geddit?
- Moonlight and Magnolias – based on Ben Hecht’s memoirs, this hilarious play told how Hecht, David O’Selznick and Victor Fleming attempted to re-write the screenplay of ‘Gone with the Wind’ in the middle of filming, sustained only by peanuts and bananas.
- Stockwell – though not a transcript, this was an attempt to recreate the actual events surrounding the shooting of Jean Charles De Menezes. A deeply disturbing and moving play.
- Deepcut – the story of one family involved in the Deepcut barracks deaths and their struggle for answers about their daughter’s alleged suicide.
- Bronte – the latest offering from Shared Experience, an original play by Polly Teale inspired by the lives and writings of the Bronte siblings. Will we ever see this company again, we wonder?
So we say to Nicolas, keep complaining, and as Winston Churchill once said,
“Now this is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning”