Interval thoughts: Towards a new future 14/05/2020

“Box of Tricks brings people together to share stories collectively.”

Two months ago, we packed up our set for The Last Quiz Night on Earth and loaded the van for the final time. We acted decisively and cancelled our tour midway in the interests of national health before we all headed into lockdown. Whilst calling last orders at The Four Horsemen was heartbreaking, the real challenges lie ahead.

With theatres shut and lives lived behind closed doors, we’ve been reflecting on how we bring people together while we’re physically apart. The above statement, from our core mission, articulates our belief that theatre and storytelling has the power to unite and connect, to transform individuals into a community. But what role does theatre play in our collective recovery and how do we positively respond whilst still separated?

We’ve been inspired by theatre’s imaginative response so far. We’ve loved seeing our sector come together for the common good. It’s been heartening to see people turn to culture during these dark days. We’ve enjoyed watching plays at home and engaging with online discussions. But it’s not the same. Theatre lives in the imaginative space between actor and audience; a secular church for shared dreaming. It’s where we go for shared experience – where we laugh together, cry together and go on a journey together – meeting a primal need to share stories and figure out our place in the world.

It’s been a difficult eight weeks as we’ve juggled myriad challenges – personal and professional – and tried to keep positive. This is a challenging time for us all. But we’ve been buoyed by donations and messages of support and we’re determined to pay it forward. One donor said “Just keep creating” and that’s exactly what we intend to do. Like so many small arts companies with no core funding, we’re navigating a challenging present and heading into an uncertain future. However, at times like these, it’s important to remind ourselves why we embarked on this journey in the first place and why theatre matters.

So let’s look to the future. Whilst there are immediate challenges to overcome in the here-and-now, there is also an invaluable opportunity for us all to collectively begin again and create a new blueprint. Let this be a catalyst for change and a new future. Theatre should be a place for everyone, doors wide open. Whilst this crisis has undoubtedly brought us together as an industry, it has also highlighted the inbuilt hierarchies and inherent inequalities. Returning to our vision – “Every story told. Every voice heard” – we’re doubling-down on our creative mission and announcing our response to this crisis next week when we launch a programme of initiatives to bring our creative community together at this time of separation and isolation.

Theatre has survived millennia and will survive this crisis. There are hard times ahead. But during this interval, let’s seize the opportunity to make a positive change and move towards a new world order. We can do better. Let’s be inspired by theatre’s power to bring people together and open doors; even if, for the time being, they are metaphorical. Let’s emerge from this crisis united by a shared vision. Every story told. Every voice heard.

Love and solidarity,

Adam Quayle and Hannah Tyrrell-Pinder
Joint Artistic Directors, Box of Tricks