Sunday, December 09, 2007

The end of an era

I couldn't resist - I went to Sheffield on Thursday. Not for Amadeus, in particular, but because I knew that if I didn't go to say goodbye to the Crucible, I'd regret it later. As it happened, I had one of the best nights I've had there, seeing the play, stopping for one last drink in the Long Bar and ending up chatting to actors til almost midnight. The play itself as directed by Nikolai Foster was really entertaining, a tour de force performance from Gerard Murphy as Salieri complimented by a sweet and funny performance by Bryan Dick as Mozart. The set was beautifully lit, bringing to mind some of the great designs by Christopher Oram that I've seen there. The sad thing was that the theatre was less than half full, but talking to the actors after the play, it seems that they'd had poor houses all the way through, partly because everyone thought the theatre had already shut. There has been so much talk of refurbishment that no-one realised that the show still goes on - or did, until last night.

And that's now it for theatre in the Crucible until autumn 2009. It'll open again for the snooker - after all, that's what's really important, bringing the money in for a couple of weeks. Meanwhile theatre shrivels in Sheffield. Sure, the Lyceum will keep going, bringing in touring shows, and some stuff might be happening in the Studio. But although Angela Galvin says “By the time the building work is complete, the people of Sheffield will have something to be really proud of”, I fear that by the time the building work is complete, the people of Sheffield will have found other things to do and other places to go. Since Sam West's departure, there is no Artistic Director because there is no art to direct. I know some people will think I'm biased because Sam's a friend, but I don't know why his ideas were rejected and why Sheffield Theatres are not out there in the community taking theatre to new and interesting spaces and building up an audience that will pour back into the main building when it finally reopens. Sheffield has a rich and vibrant history which should be captured, stories could and should be told in all sorts of settings, communities can and should be engaged in theatre. Why aren't they doing something like the Young Vic's Walkabout season? Why aren't they out there? I'm not the only one who thinks that the Board were crazy to let Sam go and shut down production, not the only one who thinks that a swathe of the population are in danger of missing the opportunity to catch the theatre habit.

Why does it matter? Because this is the place that turned theatre on for me. And why I wanted to go back for one last time, to see the posters and huge pictures of previous productions ("you've seen pretty much all of these, haven't you?" "yeah, pretty much"); to see the hallucinogenic carpet (which apparently is going to be auctioned off); to sit in the Long Bar and reminisce about shaking hands with Harold Pinter, meeting Kenneth Branagh, discussing favourite theatre spaces with Tim West, asking Daniel Evans where he got his shoes - where else could you do that? Rarely in London if ever is theatre so democratic and the personnel so approachable.

I first went there with school, so long ago that some of Thursday's cast weren't yet born. I saw Romeo and Juliet, I saw them flood the stage for Twelfth Night and was stunned that you could do that in a theatre, I saw Plough and the Stars, I saw Amid the Standing Corn and realised that you could do theatre about people who lived in your street, I lost my house keys in Caucasian Chalk Circle and had to sleep on a friend's floor, I saw my first ever musical, Carmen Jones, I took A to the theatre for the first time there when she was 3, I saw my neice appear on the main stage as a Red Ant in the Children's Festival. That place matters to me. They better not muck this refurbishment up.


Anonymous haze said...

Oh I whole heartedly agree with you. although I didn't grow up with the Crucible, over the past few years it has for me become a place with fabulous memories of great nights out with lovely people and some very memorable shows. The exec were mad to lose Sam and I'll miss that manic carpet!

10:00 pm  
Blogger Stacie said...

I'm very curious to find out where the carpet will end up! As you will be missing your favorite stage, you must come over and see the successor to the model for the Crucible's stage...

6:33 pm  

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