James Graham has urged theatres to prioritise producing new plays over developmental opportunities, claiming that venues must take risks on early-career writers or the industry is “going to die”.
Graham said he felt mainstream audiences had a “genuine appetite for new work” but pushed the importance of “putting work in front of an audience and letting it succeed or fail on its own terms”.
He said: “Theatres need to take risks and programme more new work. It’s not about workshops, or competitions, or grants or bursaries or readings. The only way you learn about your voice and your work is putting it in front of an audience, without that we are nothing.
“It’s not easy of course, and I sympathise totally with theatres that are struggling under huge commercial and financial pressures, but the lifeblood of our theatres is new plays and new writers, and without replenishing that constantly it’s going to run out and theatre is going to die.”
Graham was speaking as he presented the best writer prize at The Stage Debut Awards, which went to first-time playwright Andrew Thompson for his play In Event of Moone Disaster at Theatre503.
Graham praised small-scale venues and pub theatres, such as London’s Theatre503, for backing new plays and new writers on their stages.
“Really we need to keep doing more of the same, but emphasise producing over developing. Developing is great but it’s worthless without getting it to an actual stage in front of an audience,” Graham said.