Boutique Theatre

24 Jul

I like to tell people Sydney has a vibrant theatre scene.

Perhaps it’s true.

I say it because I’m working on the principle that if you want a child to be good you don’t constantly tell her she’s bad.

But what, exactly, would make a vibrant theatre scene?

A large number of productions?

A large number of ‘quality’ productions?

A large percentage of original works?

A large number of productions from outside the canon? (Perhaps some Japanese Noh theatre? Or some seventeenth century Spanish tragedy? Or even a production of Shakespeare’s King John?)

Here’s my suggestion for an essential component of a vibrant theatre scene – the existence of boutique theatre.

Ok, I’m coining a term here. What I mean by boutique theatre is independent theatre that does not see itself as a stepping stone to somewhere else.

I have no objection to small co-op actors’ companies putting on a Neil LaBute play in order to show off their wares. But if every indie production was this I think it would be a shame.

Similarly, if you write, direct and produce your original play at somewhere like TAP Gallery and only a handful of people come, it’s quite natural to want one of those handful to be either Andrew Upton or Ralph Myers. Andrew or Ralph or both will then be waiting in the little bohemian bar after the show and they will plead with you to allow them to include your work in their 2014 season. Who wouldn’t want that? However, and I have this on reliable authority, occasionally that doesn’t happen.

Boutique theatre appreciates that every play is not for everyone. It is satisfied with whatever audience it receives.  It does not constantly aspire. It does not say to the audience who do attend you are just part of my career strategy.

I appreciate that some people might find this attitude anathema.

If your small piece of theatre touches one soul, surely it would be better if it it touched more?

A vibrant theatre scene would be one where the answer to that question is allowed to be “No”.

Veronica Kaye


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