I so often meet people who are starting their careers in theatre, somewhere just a couple of years behind where Belt Up is now, who feel frustrated at the lack of information available. There is no definitive answer to running a theatre company or the business aspect of theatre. Everyone has their own opinion. These opinions come from the way we work, from trial and error, and predominantly from the opinions of our elders, from the people who have achieved, in one form or another, what we newbies are aspiring to achieve.
Over the past few months I have met many young companies, producers, aspiring theatre makers, all of whom seem to ask the same question, ‘how do we make it work?’. I’ve been helping companies such as Random Occurrence, an enthusiastic group of four setting up in their final year of University. For them I act as a sounding board, someone to go to for advice, but mostly to ask the silly questions. That, for me, is the most important thing that any of us can have, someone to go to and ask the questions that you wouldn’t ask your boss, or your accountant because they’d look at you like a fool.
The more professionals I meet, the more I realise that they too have been through this process. I have a mentor who also has a mentor who no doubt was once learning from those around him who each thought they had the answer, or at least something close to the answer. Let’s face it; no one actually has this answer. No one actually knows what is right or wrong, what makes a great show and what doesn’t, what makes a hit and what makes a flop. There is no handbook on theatre because there is no answer. There are simply the opinions of those making work, and whilst those people are on top their answer seems pretty valid. Then someone else will come along with a different answer and ‘Yes, this is it. This is how theatre should be made’. And on and on…
There is no definitive answer because the way theatre is created will constantly change and adapt, those creating it will also change, they will adapt, but no doubt we will still look to those above us and ask, ‘How do we make it work?’. Perhaps one day someone will have the answer. Until then, I guess we’ll just have to keep going, wondering constantly what the hell it is we’re meant to be doing.
Producer and Co-Artistic Director