Arts budgets may be under attack but Live Theatre is well prepared to weather the storm, as DAVID WHETSTONE discovered at its new season launch yesterday.
ONE of the key players in the cultural life of the region enters its 40th year determined to remain true to its principles in uncertain times.
These were firmly laid out at yesterday’s Live Theatre spring season launch by Max Roberts, who has been artistic director since 1985.
In an impassioned speech he compared the attitude of the current Government to that of Margaret Thatcher’s in the 1980s when “Live Theatre hung on by the skin of its teeth because theatre was really under attack”.
He said: “We’re under threat once again and we’re going to keep fighting like we kept fighting in the 1980s and we’re going to move forward.”
Mr Roberts, who has directed many Live Theatre productions (including Lee Hall’s The Pitmen Painters which is to embark on another national tour, bringing it to the Theatre Royal in July), spoke of his mentor CP Taylor, the late Tyneside playwright who worked in Live’s education department.
“He taught me that a commitment to the place that you actually live and work in is a really important component of what will make a theatre company survive. That’s why we’re here, because we’ve always provided a platform for the region’s finest talent, whether writers, actors, technicians or even people involved in marketing.
“We are basically passionate about the place we live and work in and we are interested in its political, social and cultural history, which has informed so many of our plays.”
Despite proposed Newcastle City Council arts funding cuts which could cost Live Theatre £85,000 per year by 2015, the company looks better equipped to withstand external pressures than it did in the 1980s.
As well as plays and events announced yesterday, chief executive Jim Beirne led a tour of the old schoolhouse, adjacent to the Live Theatre complex, which has been transformed.
The Schoolhouse was built as a free school by a seafarers’ guild in 1712 and rebuilt in 1753. The future Admiral Lord Collingwood was a pupil there.
But the building has been empty for several years. Bought for £400,000 and restored by Brims Construction at similar cost, it will now be a revenue generator for Live Theatre as it looks to survive in a world of reduced public subsidy.