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Erica Whyman: Theatremakers should not leave small stages behind as they build their careers

Erica Whyman in rehearsals for A Midsummer Night's Dream A Play for the Nation. 2015_Photo: Topher McGrillis/RSC Erica Whyman. Photo: Topher McGrillis/RSC
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Erica Whyman has claimed that theatremakers will be “doomed” if they disregard the importance of small-scale work in favour of larger theatres.

The Royal Shakespeare Company’s deputy artistic director paid tribute to small-scale theatre as she collected the special achievement award at the 2016 Peter Brook Awards.

Whyman was recognised for her work at the RSC and at Northern Stage as part of the awards, which celebrate innovation in small-scale and studio theatres.

“The thing I take issue with is the idea of ‘graduating’. The idea that there’s a ladder or a route or that somehow by moving out of a studio theatre and out onto a gigantic stage, you’ve left that [studio theatre] behind,” Whyman said.

“We cannot look away from it. If we forget it in any of our larger stages, or forget it in our structures, we are doomed,” she added.

She went on to say it was wrong to suggest theatremakers should “graduate” from small-scale work to larger theatres as their careers progress, and that looking only for “status and seniority” was misguided.

“We mustn’t ever forget what it means to be tearing the tickets and painting the loos, and at the same time not knowing how you are going to pay the rent, or how all the people you have persuaded to come and work with you are going to pay the rent. It’s courageous and I salute you,” Whyman said.