20 April 2020
As I returned home from another of my walks, I reflected upon the fact that I can be pleased we had something to lose.
As anyone who works in theatre knows, running a theatre company is a perilous pursuit and the pitfalls are numerous. The Birmingham Stage Company could have faltered at myriad points in its history. When I started the company aged twenty-six, I had little idea what I was doing. It could all have been over before it started if I had got my way and opened with three plays over the summer of ’92. As it happened, the city council took so long deciding whether to let me into The Old Rep that by the time we got permission there was only time to produce the third play in my proposed season – a wonderful Rattigan – and I lost £30,000. If I had been able to produce all three shows, the crash would have killed us. It hadn’t occurred to me that a theatre that had been professionally dark for twenty years might need cranking up before it ran at full speed. Fortunately, I hit upon the idea of producing a children’s show at Christmas and achieved 92% capacity. But there was another disaster to come the following summer (which cost me my home) and then our first big critical smash-hit with Cat On A Hot Tin Roof.
Since then we’ve had many ups and downs – five times I’ve had shows lose more than £100,000 – and we've only ever been funded by ticket sales. So the fact that twenty-eight years later we were touring multiple productions around the country when everything came to a halt is something, on reflection, to be pleased about. It was all going incredibly well – and that in itself is a miracle. It may take another before things get back to where they were, but I’m gearing up for the fight.
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