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October 11 2018


National’s cheap tickets in doubt as Travelex sponsorship deal ends

Georgia Snow

Travelex is ending its sponsorship of the National Theatre’s £15 tickets scheme, raising a question mark over the future of the venue’s cheapest seats.

NT director Rufus Norris said he was “very confident” that the theatre would find a way to continue the scheme, but said the partnership with the currency exchange company would come to an end in 2019 after 15 years.

The initiative was introduced by former National Theatre boss Nicholas Hytner and was feted as one of the biggest successes of his tenure there.

The Travelex season offered seats for £10, later rising to the £15 tickets the commercial partnership currently supports. These will continue to be available for three productions in the NT’s newly announced 2019 season – Small Island,Tartuffe and Three Sisters – after which Travelex’s association with the theatre will continue through a lower band of sponsorship as a “corporate member”.

Norris said the scheme had inspired a “really profound” impact on theatre culture, with three million people accessing tickets to more than 70 productions. However, due to the changing nature of Travelex’s business, Norris said “this kind of consumer partnership is no longer the right fit for them”.

paul Plews

NT director Rufus Norris said the scheme had inspired a profound impact on theatre culture

The NT is now looking for a new partner to continue the scheme, which Norris said he hoped to expand beyond shows at the theatre’s London home to its touring productions.

Despite conceding that he could not promise the scheme would be retained in the same form, Norris said: “All I can say is that this is a huge priority for us and many other things will go before we give up on this. In one way or another we will maintain this. Quite how we manage that remains to be seen.

“The corporate partners that we’re working with now are more far-reaching in the way they think about how working with us reflects on them.We’ve got to try to improve on the offer, not just replace it.”

Unions back Welsh writers in National Theatre Wales row

Richard Alston Dance Company to close

Georgia Snow

Equity and the Writers’ Guild of Great Britain have come out in support of a group of 40 Welsh theatremakers who criticised National Theatre Wales for failing to support homegrown talent.

The two unions have issued public backing to a letter that was sent to NTW by playwrights and theatremakers including Gary Owen last month.

It complained that Welsh talent was not adequately supported by the company, saying: “The direction of NTW, coupled with a lack of scrutiny, transparency and openness, has led to a worrying internal culture, which, despite the organisation’s name, seems to take pride in ridding itself of a theatrical identity and even its nationality.”

In a statement, Equity said its members had reported concerns over the “theatrical output and ethos” of the company under its current leadership.

Kully Thiarai took over as artistic director in 2016 from the company’s founder John McGrath.

Equity said it supported the open letter, and that concerns had been raised at its National Committee.

According to the union, the company’s artistic programme “seems to be moving away from the theatre’s stated aims” to include a predominance of non-Welsh artists and stories.

“Alongside this, Equity has noticed a drop in the number of employment opportunities being offered, not only within individual productions, but also across the year due to the number of performances scheduled,” Equity said.

The union also said it welcomed the opportunity for its Welsh members – of which it has around 1,600 – to engage in a debate about cultural identity and “what kind of national theatre Wales deserves”.

National Theatre Wales initially disputed some of the comments in the letter, claiming they were factually incorrect.

A statement in response to Equity’s backing said: “We have read Equity’s statement in support of the recent open letter to our chair. We are making plans to meet with the signatories of the letter, and look forward to an open and constructive conversation with them.”

Meanwhile, the chair of the Writers’ Guild’s Welsh branch,William Gwyn, said: “We believe that this dissatisfaction with NTW is a further example of a growing concern among Welsh writers that representation across the media of Welsh cultural identity appears to be under threat.

“The letter to NTW is further proof, if proof be needed, that it’s high time for a national debate in Wales about cultural identity and how it is portrayed in our theatres, on our television screens and in our cinemas.”

Donmar Warehouse appoints Henny Finch as executive producer

Giverny Masso

London’s Donmar Warehouse has appointed Henny Finch, currently executive director of Hofesh Shechter Company, as executive producer. Finch joined Hofesh Shechter in May 2016 after 10 years as executive director of Headlong Theatre.

She will begin the role on January 7, 2019, succeeding Kate Pakenham, and will support newly appointed artistic director Michael Longhurst in the running of the venue when he joins in March.

Finch said: “I am a long-time admirer of Mike’s bold and beautiful work, and I can’t wait to join him at the Donmar as this small but mighty theatre embarks on its next adventure.

“I am very grateful to the wonderful Kate Pakenham for leaving the theatre in such great shape and with an exceptional team, and I’m very much looking forward to getting to know the staff, the supporters, the audiences and the artists over the next few months.”

Longhurst added: “I am so delighted that Henny will be joining us as executive producer. I was blown away by her dynamic approach and cannot wait to start working with her to deliver the future work of the Donmar.”

Henny Finch

Amanda Taylor

Mathew Hemley

Choreographer Richard Alston has announced he will close his dance company in 2020 after more than 25 years.The Richard Alston Dance Company was formed in November 1994, and has been based at the Place in London since its inception.

Alston also became artistic director of the Place in 1994, but announced he was stepping down from that role earlier this year. His connection with the Place goes back to the 1960s, when he became one of the first students at the London Contemporary Dance School, which has been based at the Place since 1969.

The Richard Alston Dance Company’s last tour will be in the spring of 2020, and will include a season at Sadler’s Wells.

A statement said the Place would continue its commitment to new work, including “touring and producing the next generation of successful young artists”.

Alston said: “The Place has been my home for almost 50 years and I am nothing but grateful for the invaluable support and encouragement I have received in that time. Now change is very much in the air and inevitably it is the turn of others. The Place must embrace change if it is to thrive and I wish these younger artists well.”

However, he added: “I am not ready to stop. I still have dances in me and I feel strongly that mature artists are an important part of the dance ecology. There are not many of us.”

The Place chief executive Claire Connor said: “Like all great leaders, Richard Alston is a lifelong learner and our link to that tradition of innovation and pioneering in contemporary dance. His utter devotion to his craft, dancers and the artist’s voice permeate through everything we strive to do”

She added that Alston was “part of the DNA of the Place and would remain a major influence for the next generation of artists’.

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