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David Hare: ‘It’s a scandal that top-funded theatres aren’t touring their work’

David Hare. Photo: Johan Persson

Playwright David Hare has criticised the UK’s highest-funded theatre companies’ failure to tour shows as a “major scandal”.

Hare has also hit out at the number of people working in theatre who do not have any direct involvement with putting on shows, claiming people working in a venue should all be working towards what happens on stage.

The writer makes the claims in an article for the Guardian [1] in which he describes his ideal theatre – an imaginary playhouse.

Describing his dream venue, he discusses the perfect location, space and set-up for his playhouse.

He states that his playhouse “will tour and tour often”.

“The abandonment of touring by our best-funded companies is a major scandal which goes unremarked year after year. The argument that it is elitist to take metropolitan productions to regions and that the regions are better off making their own work is phooey,” he says.

Hare adds: “The two should co-exist and should cross on the motorway. The Ferryman, Consent, Ink and Mosquitoes should be all out on the road right now, so the whole country can see them.”

The National Theatre and the Royal Shakespeare Company are the UK’s highest-funded theatre companies. The NT is currently touring Hedda Gabler, War Horse and will bring This House to theatres around the UK later this year. The RSC will this year tour Matilda and Hamlet.

RSC executive director Catherine Mallyon responded to the criticism, stating it remained “committed to touring and love to be on the road”.

“As a publicly funded charity, we take seriously our responsibility to ensure that our work is seen by as many people as possible.  Along with an extensive touring programme, we extend our reach with free schools’ broadcasts of all our Shakespeare productions as well as our Live From Stratford-upon-Avon cinema broadcasts (followed by encore screenings) in the UK and across the world.  Shakespeare is for everyone and we do our very best to be everywhere – in the UK and across the world,” she said.

In his piece, Hare also says that everyone in his dream venue “will work towards what happens on stage”.

“There is no artistic sight more depressing in London than the flow of staff leaving the National Theatre at 6pm. Many theatre organisations are over-full with people who have nothing directly to do with putting on plays. Many are forced into something thankless called development, trying desperately to get indifferent private sponsors to perform the state’s duties,” he says.

He adds: “The National has twice as many employees as it had when it opened on the South Bank in 1976 in order to do fewer productions. Many of them never look up from their desks.”

Regarding funding, Hare argues that the Thatcher government led to theatres struggling because of reductions to their public funding.

“By starving theatre of funds, they forced the subsidised sector to adopt the values of the commercial,” he says, highlighting the Royal Shakespeare Company’s “calculated investment in Les Miserables” in 1985 and calling it the “most influential theatre event of the postwar period”.