In the past, I’ve commented in this column that a transfer to London is not always the holy grail for regional theatres – and very rarely is it the start-up engine of any project.
While our capital city is often a beacon of diversity and excellence in theatre, nowadays it’s not the only yardstick by which theatres outside London measure themselves.
For us, the breadth of our community engagement, the development of local talent, the diversifying of our audiences and workforces, and our civic duties are more meaningful touchstones.
Having said that, London is welcoming a surge of work from the UK’s subsidised regional houses. Look at the current wave: Bristol Old Vic, Edinburgh’s Royal Lyceum and Northampton’s Royal and Derngate collaborated with Fuel to bring their adaptation of Touching the Void to the Duke of York’s and Sheffield Theatres’ Everybody’s Talking About Jamie continues to uplift audiences at the Apollo.
The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole, Aged 13¾ the Musical, revamped at Leicester Curve, has garnered strong reviews at the Ambassadors and Northampton scores a double with The Worst Witch at the Vaudeville.
As well as these shows, Chichester’s production of Laura Wade’s witty comedy The Watsons will arrive at the Menier Chocolate Factory in mid-autumn.
I hear talk that yet more productions will hit the capital in the form of recent hits from some of our northern theatres. While a handful of the shows on this list have been enabled by producers’ backing from the off, others’ surprise success has gained commercial support in the latter stages of development or after critical approval.
Subsidised houses are also enlivening the touring circuit. Northampton is collaborating with Birmingham Rep and Liverpool Everyman and Playhouse to tour The Lovely Bones – likewise Bristol Old Vic and London’s Old Vic are touring A Monster Calls. Eclipse and Manchester Royal Exchange’s Black Men Walking will tour extensively into the autumn and English Touring Theatre’s Equus has returned to London following a tour.
The autumn spending review comes headlong towards us – and, given that our government is new, none of us knows its direction of travel. However, at a time of immense political uncertainty, it’s worth taking a moment to celebrate how work of artists from around the UK is being amplified by the support of our subsidised houses.
It’s also satisfying to see that commercial partners – whether they are producers or theatre owners – are enabling the work to be shared with wider audiences in our capital and across the country.
We know our creative industries are growing faster than any other industry in the UK. Happily, they are also giving us opportunities to see ourselves and our world reflected on our stages and, frankly, cheer us all up.
Daniel Evans is artistic director of Chichester Festival Theatre. Read more of his columns at: thestage.co.uk/author/daniel-evans