It’s very sad that the relationship between the Nottingham Playhouse and Nottingham County Council has broken down. It’s not just that the Council has withdrawn £95,000 in funding, it’s also that they have compared the Nottingham Playhouse unfavourably with The Newark Palace Theatre. It’s a little like comparing the National Theatre unfavourably with the New Wimbledon Theatre. The Newark Palace Theatre does really well with its pantomimes and – this bit is confusing – is run by the Newark and Sherwood district council. The Nottingham Playhouse is an internationally recognised theatre.
It’s part of an Artistic Director’s job to woo the County Council. If an Artistic Director’s work is important to them, they learn to communicate with people – all sorts of people – who make that work possible. Instead, the Playhouse has organised protests and sent in a petition with over 7,000 signatures. In reply Nottingham County Council has accused the Playhouse of using professional protesters – saying that many of them don’t live in Nottingham….and so it goes on. Fortunately the withdrawn funding is only a fraction of what the Playhouse receives from the Nottingham City Council and the Arts Council.
At the moment the Threepenny Opera is on at the Nottingham Playhouse. It’s a 3 hour show that’s been produced in conjunction with Graeae, Birmingham, New Wolsey and West Yorkshire Theatre Companies. All theatre companies with great reputations. However, Brecht’s Threepenny Opera doesn’t always have mass appeal. It can be as vibrant, enchanting and heartbreaking as Slava’s Snow Show but as an epic story, told the way that Brecht instructed, it can also alienate an audience. The poignancy, in the Nottingham Playhouse’s production is there to soften this and you’ll be able to see this and all the tremendous music and action when it goes on tour. This wasn’t always the way. There was a previous production of the Threepenny Opera at the Nottingham Playhouse – around the time of the first Punk Bands, when the singing of the lead female singer was so excruciatingly and piercingly awful – it left you numb. The Artistic Director argued at the time, that this was Brecht’s intention. Perhaps it’s the memory of this voice that has tipped the present decision of the Nottingham County Council into the negative. However, they should have got over it by now.
Stephanie Sirr, the Chief Executive of the Nottingham Playhouse is optimistic that the relationship with the Nottingham County Council will improve. She says:
“We have tried to keep working in partnership with Nottinghamshire County Council and will continue to do so. We hope this situation is temporary and that they will be able to be come back to the table in due course. I’d like to thank everyone who supported our campaign to keep a funding link with Nottinghamshire County Council and assure them that we will continue to make outstanding theatre, which will tour regionally, nationally and internationally.”