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Scrap artistic directors, urges Red Room boss

The Red Room Theatre Company artistic director Topher Campbell at Theatre 2016. Photo: Alex Brenner The Red Room Theatre Company artistic director Topher Campbell at Theatre 2016. Photo: Alex Brenner
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Topher Campbell has called on the UK theatre industry to scrap artistic directors, claiming new and emerging talent is not progressing in the sector under this model.

Speaking at the opening of day two of Theatre 2016, the theatre director and filmmaker said his own work as artistic director of theatre company the Red Room had shown him that young people have a “great hunger for the death of institutions”.

He added that having one person running a company or building artistically was “old-fashioned” and should be reconsidered.

Campbell said the people he had worked with felt theatre buildings and institutions “need to be revised, revamped or taken down”.

“I see a future where this is a very strong possibility,” he said, adding that young people instead wanted to create collectives that avoid a hierarchy.

“Even though I have been an artistic director myself, we should see the end of artistic directors. The idea that one person has the knowledge, vision and know-how to create all the necessary work that a building needs in terms of output is a bit old-fashioned,” he said.

Campbell added: “The idea of a collective, of a more fluid decision-making, a non-hierarchical way of working, is something theatre perhaps needs to see in the future. This notion that buildings themselves are the pinnacle of what we can achieve in the UK is something of a myth. Buildings keep out more people than they keep in in terms of class, race and gender – they stop voices from coming through.”

He said one person’s vision for a venue resulted in a “repetition of work based on an idea of what people think people should see” and resulted in fewer opportunities for new voices to emerge.

His comments echo those of Sheena Wrigley, who called for regional theatre producing houses to reconsider the way they operate on day one of the conference.

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