Regional consortium launched to tour large-scale drama

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English Touring Theatre has teamed up with eight regional venues to launch a consortium that will present revivals of large-scale plays across the country.

The National Touring Group will present its first show in the spring of 2014, a restaging of the Shakespeare’s Globe production of In Extremis. The group, which also consists of Blackpool Grand, Darlington Civic Theatre, Hall for Cornwall, Cambridge Arts Theatre, Theatre Royal Brighton, the Marlowe Theatre Canterbury, Malvern Theatres and Wolverhampton Grand, has received £1.14 million in funding from Arts Council England.

It will use the funding to tour one large-scale production a year from 2014 to 2016. The scheme follows ETT’s tour of the Shakespeare’s Globe production of Anne Boleyn in 2012. It ran in many of the theatres that are now part of NTG and went on to win the best touring production at the Theatre Awards UK last year, following a public vote hosted by The Stage.

Like Anne Boleyn, In Extremis is written by Howard Brenton and is directed by John Dove and designed by Michael Taylor. It originally played at Shakespeare’s Globe in 2006, returning in 2007 for a second season.

English Touring Theatre director Rachel Tackley told The Stage that the idea of NTG was to “take excellent work that already exists and take it to a massive audience across England, giving tens, if not hundreds, of thousands of people the chance to see shows that they wouldn’t otherwise get to see”.

The productions will always be revivals of successful large-scale dramas.

Tackley added: “It stems from knowing how difficult it is to tour large-scale drama without a name. So, we started to think about how we could start to get some seriously big audiences when we can’t necessarily secure named casting.

“We just thought that the show had to be the name, so if the show has been reviewed and everyone thinks it is brilliant and it has five star reviews, then perhaps you don’t need the name. So, that’s the theory.

“Also, the productions will be chosen by the group, so it will be people in regional theatres having a very real input into what they think their audiences want. So, they’ll be able to programme in a very positive way, rather than choosing from what is already out there.”

Full dates and casting for the tour have yet to be announced. However, Tackley said the production would visit all eight partner venues, playing a week at each, with the tour due to start in the spring of 2014. The two further productions to take place in 2015 and 2016 have yet to be confirmed.

The scheme follows the launch of Music and Lyrics, a similar project set up by producer John Stalker, through which a consortium of regional venues are producing large-scale touring musicals.