Our theatre wish list for 2024

11th January 2024

Photograph: © Simon Raynor

In the last 20+ years of being in theatre, we have seen the industry change, shift, and evolve into what we know today. The industry isn’t perfect, far from it, and we haven’t got to where we are now without a few challenges - the pandemic, plus lack of government support and funding to name a few - but our industry has never stopped fighting for theatre and the arts.

The theatre industry is incredibly resilient, and we are all passionate about our craft. We believe we can make a difference if we all work together. We all want to improve the industry and make it better for every single person who works within it.

With the new year upon us, many theatre leaders and companies are putting together their wish lists for what they’d like to see improve within theatre and their forecasts for 2024. So it got us thinking too.

Photograph: © Jane Russell

We recently read an interesting article by Lyn Gardner in The Stage where she states what she’d like to see change in theatre this year. We wholeheartedly agree with her points:

  • Challenge the lack of arts education and have theatres work alongside schools and colleges to share arts knowledge and build relationships.  
  • Stop the fixation on buildings. Building more cultural spaces isn’t always the answer and can be an unnecessary drain on the cultural purse.
  • Fix the problem around project funding.
  • Put artists on payrolls and boards.

The points that we at The Play’s The Thing Theatre Company would like to add to these already bulging lists, would be:

  • A bigger focus on community theatre. There are many talented non-professional actors, producers, playwrights, and more within our communities who do not get the recognition they deserve.

Photograph: © Simon Raynor

The variety of diverse and thought-provoking work that comes from the small, independent theatre companies in Milton Keynes and surrounding areas is fantastic, but no one from outside the community knows about it. We have seen many local performances that we believe are better than some that are staged at larger, regional theatres. These smaller companies, cast and crew need to be seen.

Wouldn’t it be great to have an NT Live for community theatre where we can showcase our work to the world?!

  • More roles for older women. I would like to see older women in leading roles this year. There are simply not enough taking centre stage. Older women are usually cast in frumpy or miserable mum or grandmother roles, often someone who has a few lines and is not seen. Let’s stop this.

Photograph: © Simon Raynor

As older women, we have life and work experience that we can bring to the role to drive the action and narrative. We want to inspire people with our stories, be role models, and be the women that others aspire to be when they reach our age. I want to see a big change here.

  • Bridge the gaps in the skills shortage and retain talent. Since the pandemic, we have lost industry talent faster than we’ve been able to replace it. Particularly in roles off-stage.

We need to build the theatre up again to be a more positive industry to work in with great opportunities. We need a more attractive offering. As Lyn Gardener mentioned, we need to put artists on payrolls. We also need to look at training, contracts, working hours and conditions, personal support, and more.

Photograph: © Simon Raynor

We need to work together on finding an answer. Without the people, what do we have?

  • Improve ticket costs to make it accessible for all. Ticket prices have gone up exponentially over the last few years, which is putting many theatre-goers off buying tickets.
  • Audiences go to the theatre to be entertained, to learn new things, to hear people’s stories, and to escape to another world. Should they have to pay through the nose for this experience?

Photograph: © Nicki Probets

If we want to get the audiences through the door to hear the stories that have been written for them, no matter their age, background, etc, then prices need to come right down.    

  • Make it easier to get funding. We are very fortunate to have received funding for some of our past projects and productions, however, it is no simple task.

The application form can be confusing and onerous, and because of this many theatre companies aren’t successful in getting funding and are missing out on sharing their productions.

The paperwork and process need to be simplified to give more opportunities for local theatres so we can hear these stories.  

None of these are easy tasks that will be completed overnight. They will take years to plan, implement, and get right.

We’d like to see the industry leaders come together this year to work through the points that matter to us and start making positive changes.

Let’s turn these from a ‘wish list’ to a ‘make it happen’ list. As an industry as resilient as ours it is possible.

What would you add to your wish list?