Friday, 15 April 2011
The First Domino
This will probably be shorter and less in depth than the relationship deserves, but it feels important to post something today.
Back in 1996, when Rachael and I were planning our first tour, of The Killing Show, we compiled a list of venues we wanted to approach. Within that list we had a set of 10 venues that to us, from the touring schedules of other companies, we felt were the most important in the country for presenting the sort of work we wanted to make. That top ten included Leeds Met Gallery and Studio Theatre, and Manchester's greenroom. The Killing Show was actually much trickier to tour than we had anticipated, but the following year we were at both Leeds Met Studio and greenroom with Experiment Zero.
Experiment Zero at greenroom, as part of the Jungehunde festival, was the worst gig we've ever had. Major technical problems on just the second night of the tour threw us, and we struggled in the first half of the show to make it work. We got through it though, followed by a post-show discussion and then "no holds barred" feedback session called kaffeeklatch the next day. It was a fantastically important experience.
Two years later they had us back with the next touring show Hang Up, then the year after with Where From Here...and, well, it's all here on the greenroom united website. Last year we had a fantastic gig there as part of the 10th Anniversary tour of Class of '76. We were hoping to take What I Heard About The World there this October.
On March 30th this year, Arts Council England announced its new National Portfolio of funded companies and organisations. Third Angel is not part of it, and neither is Leeds Met Gallery and Studio Theatre, nor is greenroom (along with another 200 Regularly Funded Organisations). Nationally there was relief, celebration, dismay, anger; and then it went quiet for a bit. Those of us contemplating the transition from "RFO" status to, well, whatever is next, have all been frantically busy addressing the future, asking for further explanation of the decision, and carrying on with all the activity that we had planned for this month.
And then today, greenroom announced that it will close at the end of May. They are funded for the rest of this financial year, but of course wrapping up an organisation of that size costs money. So no autumn season.
The thing about greenroom is that the people there, all of them - management, technical team, box office and bar staff - care about the work they show. They have helped give a start to so many companies and artists, and their closing will have a huge knock-on effect on the contemporary theatre and live art sectors. Yes, we've lost a gig in the autumn, but how many artists won't get support next year, the year after, the year after?
My favourite greenroom memory? At a Method Lab showcase (I think) in about 2001, performance poet Shamshad Khan gave a beautiful solo performance, made in collaboration with Mark Whitelaw (I think). Meditating on the loss of friends, she observed that life is like a party, and it's just that "some people leave early to beat the traffic."