Friday, December 14, 2007

Arts Council in Britain Disses Text and Narrative?

David Edgar, in a column in the Guardian questions the Council's recent dropping of "New Writing" from its list of priorities:

For almost all of its history, theatre has been made from texts telling
stories. So why does the Arts Council want to prioritise non-text-based theatre doing something else? There is (as yet) no statistical evidence that non-narrative, performance-based devised work is increasing in the repertoire (or proving a particular box-office success). The evidence for an upsurge is largely anecdotal and on the supply side: lots of young people are coming out of university drama departments wanting to do it.

By contrast, the evidence for the power and purchase of the
individually written, narrative-based theatre text is overwelming. There have been periods when television drama or the novel has had its finger more determinedly on the zeitgeist than the theatre. But, despite the inevitable peaks and troughs, new theatre writing has created a mosaic portrait of the past half-century of British life that has not been bettered in any other medium, from the Royal Court dramatists of the late 50s (such as Osborne and Wesker), via state-of-England writers like David Hare and Howard Brenton in the 70s and the remarkable upsurge of women playwrights (including Caryl Churchill and Timberlake Wertenbaker) that followed, to the "in-yer-face" dramatists of the past decade.

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