I’m currently one of the curators of the Transform season at the West Yorkshire Playhouse; a programme of new types and styles of work (new to the Playhouse).
Transform is not a binary argument.
?Imagine a theatre where anything is possible.?
That?s the tag line for Transform. It?s on the bottom of the emails people in the building send out. Posters. Flyers. If we had the money then somewhere there?s a bus with it written on. There are even as we speak meetings where people point to that sentence and say things like ?I don?t want to blink in this city without seeing- Imagine a theatre where anything is possible?. Well maybe not that last one but you take the point- it?s what we are ABOUT.
It?s very important being ABOUT something nowadays- people are suspicious of things without a clear purpose in this time of renewed scrutiny and financial crisis. Fair enough. So Transform is ABOUT imagining a theatre where anything is possible. Good.
I have a confession. I didn?t want that to be the tag line. It?s okay- these things happen. It?s a fast building and I work in many places so sometimes you just don?t quite win the argument, or you don?t have time to have the argument.
But, just so me and you know, I didn?t want it to say ?Imagine a theatre where anything is possible?.
?Have you come to kill Rattigan?? was what one arts journalist quipped when it was announced that I was curating the Transform programme with Kully Thiarai- a programme of work designed to temporarily Transform how the West Yorkshire Playhouse worked and how audiences approached the building. I didn?t know what to say at the time, it seemed obnoxious to point out to them that Rattigan was already dead. And I?m pretty sure they were being metaphorical.
The last few years has seen so many areas of discourse become binary- a choice between two hard and fast polar opposites; Alternative Voting System or Flak Jackets for Soldiers; Hospitals or Arts Centres; Libraries or Bin Collections; National Solvency or SureStart; Civil Liberties or Safety from Terrorism.
What utterly specious nonsense. That in this day and age, in this complicated world the questions have been allowed to become this simplistic is ridiculous.
And, granted in a less urgent manner, so it is with the issue of whether our cities should have playhouses or not. Fund or Scrap! The arts world fighting for its survival in last year?s slash and burn of so much of our communities? provision.
But some people- and the West Yorkshire Playhouse were foremost amongst this group- had the foresight even in the middle of the fight for survival to reframe the question- to see it not simply as fund us or scrap us but also to see a third way, a different emphasis:
-in what ways can we change what we do, expand what we do, re-define our services to our communities to ensure that the question of our relevance continues to be met with a compelling answer even in this fast, hard changing time? Or simpler- the world has changed, the city has changed, so must we but how? Or simpler still- in ten years time what do we do?
And a part of this thinking is why I didn?t want the tag line to be Imagine a theatre where anything is possible.
It isn?t a binary choice you see. What the West Yorkshire Playhouse can do, will do in the future isn?t a binary choice. It isn?t a choice between what has gone before and something new. It isn?t a choice between Rattigan and the Wau Wau sisters. It isn?t a choice between work that happens in different places, in boxes in foyers or rehearsal rooms and plays on stage. It isn?t a choice between 730 pm or durational.
It isn?t a binary choice. The West Yorkshire Playhouse is on a journey to find out the full answer to the challenge Imagine a theatre where everything is possible. Not just anything. Everything.
And of course just as Transform isn?t the attempt to kill Rattigan (poor man why is he always picked on) so it isn?t- no matter how fabulously packed the two weeks- on its own a blue print for what our theatre might look like, what it might do, how it might entertain us in the coming years. It is potentially but one part of an Everything.
And in this great journey of imagining YOU are vital. Transform- alongside the exciting new relationships with Unlimited Theatre and new Associate Directors Sarah Esdaile and Nikolai Foster- is but one suggestion for a part of the Everything the West Yorkshire Playhouse will provide in the future, just one part of a renewed relevancy. And you too must point the way forward, you too must demand a theatre re-imagined for this changing city. You can demand this by coming, by trying new experiences here at Transform and by letting us know what you think of these new directions.
It is your Playhouse and it is, needs must, changing. Come be a part of the change with us.
Imagine a theatre where Everything is possible.