Scottish actors have criticised a perceived decline in employment opportunities at the National Theatre of Scotland, which is facing pressure to reveal how it spends its £4.2 million a year of public subsidy.
Equity argues that the organisation is not employing local actors, stage managers and creatives “at the level they should be considering the amount of investment they receive”.
However, the theatre company has claimed its ‘without walls’ model means the costs of producing an annual touring programme “outweigh the costs of producing a building based programme, year on year, and with less potential to yield revenue”.
The NTS receives £4.2 million annually from the Scottish government, which is considerably larger than other theatre companies in Scotland, a motion from the Scottish branch of the union argues.
“However, over the past few years the level of activity produced by NTS seems to have declined with reduced employment opportunities for Scotland based actors and freelance creatives who are members of our union,” the motion argues.
It adds: “This motion calls on the NTS to be open and transparent about employment levels of performers, stage managers and creative team personnel it employs annually given the scale of their resources in comparison to other theatre companies in Scotland.”
General secretary Christine Payne said the union’s own research had shown the funding “is not being spent on productions involving our members”.
“Therefore, Equity calls on the NTS to be upfront and transparent about where the £4.2 million is being spent and to explain why they are not employing performers, stage managers and creative team personnel at the level they should considering the amount of investment they receive,” she said.
Responding, the NTS said it “enjoys a strong relationship with Equity in Scotland”.
“Comparing funding received by the National Theatre of Scotland and other Scottish theatre companies who are venue based does not offer a nuanced picture. The National Theatre of Scotland’s ‘theatre without walls’ model was designed to serve the whole of Scotland,” it said, adding that it presented work in 195 locations reaching audiences in 29 out of 32 local authorities in 2018.
“The associated costs of producing an annual touring programme outweigh the costs of producing a building based programme, year on year, and with less potential to yield revenue.
“The cyclical nature of the National Theatre of Scotland’s programming also varies year on year, with every year offering a different focus on scale of work produced and audience and sector development priorities. The Company’s focus in 2021 to 2022 will be on large scale work,” it said.
It highlighted its commitment to talent development and sector support and said its remit was “acknowledged by the Scottish government, which core funds the company”.
In 2018, National Theatre Wales was accused of not being “national, theatrical or Welsh enough”.
Earlier this year, the National Theatre of Scotland was accused of operating a blacklist by actor Iain Robertson.