Sheffield Crucible boss says creativity can beat cuts

BBC Look North's Tom Ingall reflects on the Crucible Theatre's history.

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Regional theatres can "beat" financial cuts, the Sheffield Crucible's artistic director has said, as the building celebrates its 40th anniversary.

"We have to beat them and we will beat them," Daniel Evans declared.

He was speaking alongside five former artistic directors at an event to celebrate the venue's birthday.

He said theatres must come up with more "inventive" ways to put on shows. In March, Sheffield Theatres had an 11% Arts Council cut in real terms.

"It is serious, of course it is," he said of the economic situation. "At the same time, we in the arts know that we aren't some kind of sacred sector that can't be affected.

"All that needs to happen for theatre to happen is someone watching and someone doing something in front of them.

"I'm not saying that we'd want to do things with a cheap set because we pride ourselves on our production values, but there are ways of doing things, of being inventive, of telling these stories in inventive, challenging, new ways, that mean we can beat any cuts."

Dominic West in Othello. Photo: Johan Persson Dominic West starred in Othello at The Crucible. Photo: Johan Persson

Evans has been helped by the recent success of Othello, featuring The Wire co-stars Dominic West and Clarke Peters, which became the most successful production in the theatre's history, selling 31,000 tickets.

Michael Grandage, who was artistic director from 2000-05 and now runs the Donmar Warehouse in London, recalled a relatively prosperous time when New Labour was putting money into the arts.

"As a result we were able to really do some exciting work," he said. "Cast sizes and the epic nature of those classical works suddenly became possible. If ever there was a case for why subsidy is important in the arts, that was the period when it was proven.

"It steadied us and stopped us from going into liquidation. It gave us a bit of confidence."

The theatre has used the anniversary to launch the Future 40 Fund, a campaign to encourage members of the public to donate money to secure its future.

When the theatre opened in 1971, it was mired in controversy over its thrust stage, which was radical at the time as it is surrounded by the audience, rather than being a traditional theatre layout.

Founding artistic director Colin George recalled how critics predicted "no self-respecting actor would work here".

Mr George said: "They thought it wouldn't work and in fact we had some quite distinguished members of the theatre saying, for example, that it would become the laughing stock of the country, and that it would close in seven years. Well it hasn't, has it?"

The theatre's new season includes a production of Stephen Sondheim's Company, a series of Michael Frayn plays and the appearance of John Simm in Harold Pinter's Betrayal.

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