Kate Kellaway on theatre outside London

Sunday 15th November 2009

Manchester Royal Exchange theatre
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Sundays are good days to put your feet up, watch rain dribbling down the window, and read the broadsheet papers. And get hot under the collar. In the Observer, for example, critic Kate Kellaway describes the latest developments in theatres outside London. This, it has to be said, is a high-risk subject. Basically, there is so much theatre outside London — some 40-plus venues — that arts journos can only really manage two stories about them: they are either a) in crisis, or b) entering a golden age. And the inevitable response to any article is: why have you left out my local theatre? As Kellaway points out, the terminology is pretty difficult: “Provincial is a dirty word. Regional isn’t. How much the language reveals. Provincial theatre – dusty rep, cynical programming, clapped-out musicals – is a thing of the past. Regional theatre is far more likely to mean classy acting, good design, smart musicals, innovative writing, and to be led by an adventurous new breed of artistic director who actively chooses to work outside London.” The only trouble with regional is that these places — Manchester, Birmingham, Liverpool, Leeds, Bristol or Plymouth — are only regional in relation to, you guessed, London. To their inhabitants they aren’t regions, they’re home. So big is the theatre scene outside London that any survey by a metropolitan journo is bound to be found wanting. What’s the solution? Use the internet! Instead of bitching about how London theatre critics never cover your shows, why not create a thousand local blogs with local critics covering local shows. And then tell us all about them!

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