Icarus survives Brewhouse losses after ACE awards company £47k

Actors from Icarus Theatre Collective in a production of Romeo and Juliet. Photo: George Riddell.
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Touring company Icarus Theatre Collective has been saved from closure after it was awarded a grant from Arts Council England, which means it can continue to  create work for the next year.

The theatre company was left owed £6,000 earlier this year following the closure of the Brewhouse Theatre in Taunton, where it regularly appeared. ACE has given the mid-scale company a sum of £47,000 to tour its productions of Hedda Gabler and Othello across the UK for a year.

However, the arts council has said the money was not granted directly as a result of the losses Icarus incurred from the Brewhouse’s closure.

Max Lewendel, artistic director of Icarus, said the loss of money due to the theatre going into administration had a “crippling” effect.

He said: “We had massive crisis meetings, and our staff thought they might lose their jobs. We were literally saying, ‘Do we shut the company down right now?’. Fortunately the arts council has saved us and agreed to fund our next year of work.”

He said if Icarus had not received the grant, touring Hedda Gabler and Othello would have resulted in the company going bankrupt.

“We would have had to pay people less, cast fewer actors and reduce production values, and even with cutting those costs, we would have lost £20,000, which would have shut us down,” said Lewendel.

He said fewer theatres offering guarantees for shows and a reduction in the number of venues Icarus was able to tour to in 2013 added to the company’s precarious financial situation earlier this year.

During the three months after the Brewhouse announced it was to go into administration, Lewendel said Icarus had focused entirely on applying for funding, rather than producing theatre. As a result, this is the first year, he said, that Icarus would not be expanding its work. He said Icarus had needed to focus on writing funding applications because cancelling the tour or pushing back the agreed start date would have been too damaging to its reputation.

Lewendel added: “The  arts council is taking positive responsibility for the gap created by abandoning mid-scale theatres, as they have funded us, a mid-scale company. But until they have more money  to give out and the guidelines the government sets out allow them more artistic latitude, their reach will be limited.”

Neil Darlison, director of theatre at ACE, said: “Icarus has received an offer of funding from ACE’s Grants for the Arts programme [which has an open application process] to produce and tour nationally two productions, Othello and Hedda Gabler.”