Managerialism threat to theatre

Aug 26 2015 | By More

Theatre creativity threatened by ‘managerialism’ says McMillan

By Hugh Simpson

It is ‘the long march of managerialism’, not government cuts, that threatens the vitality of Scottish theatre, according to Joyce McMillan.

Speaking at the Edinburgh International Book Festival, the distinguished theatre critic and political commentator declared that, contrary to public perception, cuts are not the issue. Instead she blamed a growth in managerial culture, evident in all spheres of public life, for ‘sucking up’ money that should go to creatives.

Joyce McMillan

Joyce McMillan

In response to an audience question at her appearance alongside Mark Fisher at their Is Arts Criticism In Crisis?  event, McMillan maintained that the continuing talk of cuts in Scotland was an irrelevance, as the Scottish Government had ensured they had not taken place on the same scale as in England.

Indeed, she said that there is more money in Scottish theatre in real terms than 20 years ago. That money, however, is being used to maintain a growing class of managers who in turn inform those creating the work that cuts have to be made.

This was a rare negative moment in an hour that, despite its title, was resoundingly positive. The overall conclusion being that while the traditional model of print-based arts criticism was indeed in danger of disappearing, other models were taking its place and were equally important.

characteristically generous mood

McMillan maintained that technological advances that turned everyone into critics could only be a good thing, as criticism in itself was an underrated and socially useful skill, with the ability to evaluate and criticise a vital part of citizenship.

Mark Fisher. Photo: Lotte Fisher

Mark Fisher. Photo: Lotte Fisher

Fisher, in characteristically generous mood, discussed the various roles of the critic in relation to his new book How To Write About Theatre, with his examination of the issues surrounding reviews of preview performances of Benedict Cumberbatch’s Hamlet particularly illuminating and even-handed.

The re-alignment of the dates of Fringe and official festival came in for praise, with the Festival’s opening Harmonium Concert and the Traverse’s Our Ladies Of Perpetual Succour being singled out as among this year’s highlights.

How To Write About Theatre by Mark Fisher is published by Bloomsbury.

Joyce McMillan’s collection of reviews Field of Dreams has been delayed but will be published by Nick Hern later in the year.

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