The Other National Theatre

Exciting, inclusive, diverse, representative theatre for all performers and audiences…

Theatre for the deprived, cut-off, left-behind and excluded, for those needing dignity…

Theatre for the bored, couldn’t-be-bothered, to make make people welcome, to know it’s their space, their voices, their faces up there – along with everyone else’s…

The Other National Theatre is taking shape at the Alhambra Theatre in the West End of Morecambe, in the North West of England – and we’d like to to take shape in minds all over the nation.

Have you ever wondered why culture in our country is a postcode lottery, an accident of geography? It’s bizarre, especially when you see the creative talent and willing audiences in every corner of the UK.

So that’s why we created the Other National Theatre at the Other End of England. In the West End of Morecambe, Lancashire, to be precise. We have no budget so like all great British institutions we need to appeal to the nation and beyond to help us in whichever way you can.

Here’s the plan: Internationally, as the hub of Alternative National Theatres, we want to twin The Other National Theatre with performing arts individuals and organisations in every country of the European Union. It will act as a channel to all those other nations. Let us know if you’re interested.

Nationally, we want the Other National Theatre to help the conversation about representation in theatre and to share this within the regions and nations of the United Kingdom, and also internationally – helped by the UK Centre of the International Theatre Institute.

There’s also a plan to produce. Here in Morecambe, we would like to mirror and match show-for-show the London National Theatre’s programme of shows. If they do Macbeth, we’ll our own version. If they do a new play by an established playwright, we’ll stage a homage or topical response without breaking copyright.

A David Hare play about the NHS in London may inspire a local writers’ groups up North to talk to healthworkers and come up with a staged response to the play’s themes.

Our artists and activists, our disabled and marginalised, our schools and colleges, foodbanks and local businesses, all will have their responses too.

Giving non-professional actors of all ages and backgrounds a voice is central to the Other National Theatre, aided by DIY West End Theatre. (our West End-based occasional company created by director Will Nelson). It draws on semi-professional and professional Northern-based actors, directors and writers to perform, guide and produce.

We’ll perform at the Alhambra Theatre at the centre of the seafront of the West End. We’ll go anywhere else that will have us in Morecambe, Heysham, Lancaster, the Bay Area, the North-West, the North and the rest of the nation. 

In the absence of funding or sponsorship, the Other National’s productions are likely to be low budget, but that won’t stop us from striving for excellence. 

So what help do we need?

It’s anything that goes into putting on a show and supporting local talent. We need to take to our shows to schools and isolated communities. Maybe even to London. Whatever you give us, we’ll use.

Or just come here!

Also, audiences in London rather like the foreign directors the National Theatre lines up for its flagship productions. So we’ve got our very own foreign directors lined up too. 

Top of our list is Sweden’s Henrik Grimbäck, the director who set up the groundbreaking The New Royal Theatre at Denmark’s Teater Momentum in Odense.

We hope that Henrik and lots of other theatremakers from overseas will be familiar faces in the North West and beyond.

Random notes on our Manifesto and the ‘nots’ of theatre

Working towards the idea of what an audience is… Because without an audience there is no theatre.

Theatre is also about ideas. Of course it is about about practice. But not many people ever see a particular piece of theatre (Disney’s Lion King is a museum not living theatre). So it has to be about ideas.

Millions watch Game of Thrones, billions watch Avengers: EndgameMillions are not meant to watch a theatre show. Why? Because it’s about the audience of the moment, the performance of the moment, the ideas of the moment, the mood of the moment. And that’s your audience. The here and now. Who can walk out any moment. Or laugh or cry. Or riot. Who can spot if you’re shit. Or your ideas aren’t real. Even though none of it’s real.

And that’s the unique power of theatre. To change people forever. Theatre is about live work. Of course it is about archiving. But no one watches theatre on video and the reviews and theses get lost in time. It’s about connecting with a live audience.

Theatre is about who’s in front of you. Of course it is about expanding your outreach. But growth isn’t a theatre idea. That’s for corporations who mostly go bust one day after their ‘audience’ moves on to the next corporation.

So theatre is about loyalty. And trust. And efforts that will always be beyond resources.

So theatre’s a labour of love? No, it’s highly skilled responsible profession like any other. Theatre professionals need to live and afford to care for others. Sure society has a duty to support this, because growth isn’t what theatre does.

Most people don’t go to the theatre. Most children don’t go to the theatre. Most retired people don’t go to the theatre. Most minorities don’t go to the theatre. Most excluded groups don’t go to theatre. Some of the people who would most benefit from theatre are the last people you would ‘expect’ to find in a theatre. Professionals who can make a living will find the other audiences. Like paying teachers, like paying care workers, like paying nurses.
Practice should be endowed with a sense of humanity and need. That’s all any of us on this earth needs.

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