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The spring that changed theatre

Boy, it has been quite the spring!

For us in the theatre and entertainment business, this spring has introduced a forced period of reflection, both on the industry, as a whole, and on Bric à Brac specifically.

First came the pandemic. For Bric à Brac this meant having to cancel the last part of our Mustard Doesn’t Go With Girls tour and postponing rehearsals for our newest project (to be announced soon!). At the beginning we didn’t completely understand the long term impact the pandemic would have on our industry, optimistically thinking it would be over before summer. As the weeks dragged on this seemed less and less plausible. At this point the future of theatre in the UK is still difficult to predict. Every week brings news of theatres struggling to survive, theatre funding systems changing and no audiences for who knows how long.

And that is only one side of the problem. We who work in the arts take pride in working in an industry that not only seeks to entertain but also challenges our audience. To spark conversations and comment on society, to bring joy and wonder into the world. “The world needs art!” we proclaim to sceptical family members at tense dinner parties. So, one should think that this time, as the pandemic is over us, would be a very important time for theatre. If theatre is so important to people, when could we need it more? But the industry has struggled to rise to the challenge. Paralysed by the closure of theatres we have yet to find the right way to reach people.

In Bric à Brac we are - along with many of our colleagues - still figuring out how to make theatre in the current climate. We started with Kid’s Lab, an online learning and entertainment platform for kids, hoping it could work as a resource for both teachers and parents home-schooling their kids. Thanks to a partnership with the wonderful East-London charity, St. Margaret’s House, we are able to continue the work with Kid’s Lab until school starts in September. In addition to Kid’s Lab we have given children’s theatre workshops over zoom in collaboration with Mix Up Theatre and are commencing a second collaboration with St. Margaret’s House. As part of our children’s engagement project we also made our children’s musical, Mustard Doesn’t Go With Girls, available to stream for free for a 48 hour period. We have also started experimenting with creating new work over zoom, hopefully shortening a rehearsal period when we finally get to meet. All of this is not ideal. It is not how we want to make or present our work but it is better than nothing.

And then came another tragedy. The video of the murder of George Floyd sparked worldwide protests against police violence and the systematic racism against black people, indigenous people and other people of colour. The Black Lives Matter movement has rejuvenated the long overdue debate about racism and bias in the theatre industry. In Bric à Brac we have taken a lot of time to educate ourselves, both through reading up on literature and listening to advice from our peers on how we can become better allies in the future. Ultimately, we are a company of white women and we acknowledge that we have a duty to our BIPOC colleagues to change this and become more diverse. This is also a duty to our audience, who deserve to watch actors that better represent them. Therefore, we are creating a new mission statement with concrete goals to achieve this. We promise not to run away from this and to hold ourselves accountable to our goals.

So this is where we’re at, now halfway into summer without any idea how this might end. But for now, we’re determined to continue. Determined to view this time not only as a problem but as a chance to improve. A chance to renew ourselves. To become more flexible, generous and inventive. So that in the future, when we look back on this spring, we can be proud of what we did.

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