Rufus Norris on New National Theater Films Saving Panto and the UK Arts Crisis | Theater

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The National Theater reopened and then closed again this week for lockdown. It must have been good to find the audience, albeit briefly, to Death of England: Delroy?
It was another fall on the roller coaster of this entire period. I did a little speech at the start of the show about how great it feels to feel the audience’s hunger to come together to hear a story. It was very edifying. It has been a difficult and painful time and the best balm for all the anxiety is to stand up and do what we are here for. And we have this show now – it will have a life at some point.

You even managed to film the production during its short duration.
The popularity of NT at home asserted the importance of this. We had planned to film it later, but when we got the news of the lockdown on Saturday, in half an hour, we went to Zoom and said to move the shoot forward. Now we are talking about the most effective way to get it out to as large an audience as possible.

What other plans does the NT have during this month of lockdown?
It’s radically different from last time. We have a space that is ready and we know what shows we want to do. We hope that the lock will be lifted at least for a while over Christmas so that the panto in rehearsal [Dick Whittington] can take place. If by any chance the lockdown continues, we’ll capture it and do something with that recording. The other thing that is in rehearsal is Romeo and Juliet, which is a movie.

Michael Balogun in Death of England: Delroy, which reopened the National Theater, but closed early due to lockdown. Photography: Normski Photography

Will Romeo and Juliet look like an NT Live production?
It’s completely different. The Lyttelton stage is very large and has the same space behind and on the sides. This means that if we clean everything up we have a really big space which for all intents and purposes can be turned into a movie studio. We are making a film, not a play. It is really a new form that we are discovering every day. Director Simon Godwin repeats it as a cross between how you would rehearse a play and how you would rehearse a movie. Normally in the making of a film you don’t have a lot of rehearsal time, but in this case we have the opportunity to do that… some cinematic expertise alongside all of the theater staff. It is a very interesting meeting point. It’s great to innovate a little.

In the spring you said the National was hemorrhagic money. What are the finances of the organization like now?
In the short term, the absolutely crucial thing is the outcome of our loan application [as part of the government’s £1.5bn arts rescue fund]. We think we’ll find out by the middle of the month. If by any chance we do not get this loan, we are in an unthinkable situation. If we come close to what we asked for, we are relatively confident that we will be able to find our way over the next few months. It will stop the bleeding. It’s a loan, not a grant – it’s money we have to pay back. So it’s a delicate balance. We don’t want to ask too much. As it stands, Lisa Burger [executive director of the NT] and I’m uncomfortable with imposing these payments on whoever’s running this building in 10 or 12 years. As an organization, if we get that confidence vote from the stimulus fund, that’s what a lot of our donors are looking for. They want to make sure that the money they invest in charity does not run out. It’s a pretty complex picture.

The National Theater wrapped in duct tape this summer at the launch of the #MissingLiveTheatre campaign by UK theater designers.
The National Theater wrapped in duct tape this summer at the launch of the #MissingLiveTheatre campaign by UK theater designers. Photograph: Dominic Lipinski / PA

Over the course of this year, do you think the government has gained a clearer picture of the ecology of British theater?
Absoutely. At the start, we got a loud and clear message from DCMS that as an industry we need to speak with one voice. At first we were like, well we have subsidized, non-profit, commercial tour companies, the difference between Slung Low and the National, Sonia Friedman and Bristol Old Vic and English Touring Theater. How can we speak with one voice? They said you have to learn and we did. Communication within the industry at large is so much better than it has ever been. The lobbying may have seemed haphazard, but it was much less haphazard than it seemed, and it resulted in a very positive stimulus fund – not for independents but for organizations. I hope that this cohesion will last in the long term. It helps to remember that we are all interdependent – we are all in the same game.

You have to worry about the talent drain from the industry during this crisis.
We are entirely dependent on the 70% of the workforce who are self-employed and they are out in the cold to a large extent. What is of great concern is that this exacerbates the already existing inequality between people who can afford to survive lean periods, because they have support from elsewhere or have had opportunities when they were more. youth. [and those who don’t]. I’m talking about class and diversity. There have been significant advances, for which we have fought fiercely, in recent years and we are already seeing this going back very quickly. A broadening of the criteria around the income support scheme for the self-employed and support for the self-employed is essential. I would love to see a reset of this to recognize the long term impact.


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