Written evidence submitted by Teatro Vivo
INTRODUCTION TO TEATRO VIVO
Teatro Vivo is a critically acclaimed company making playful, exciting immersive
work in public spaces, embedding professional productions in the heart of local
communities, to encourage imaginative engagement with the world. We bring
Shakespeare to Supermarkets, explore The Odyssey on the streets of Deptford,
and discuss the British arms trade in public squares. Over 16 years we have
built a devoted following. Lewisham-based, we engage people who have little
contact with the arts, creating bold, accessible work, so that everyone can
experience the joy of live theatre.
Teatro Vivo is vital to England’s cultural ecology, working with multiple partners
- from festivals, councils and arts centres, to individual artists. We work in
numerous communities, linking groups together: If we flourish, we help others to
We are Associates at Deptford Albany and regularly collaborate with NPOs. In 2019 we staged The Hunters Grimm - collaborating with Stratford Circus, Catford Broadway, Lewisham Council and numerous small organisations.
In 2018 we staged TWISTOV on the streets of Shoreditch. This co-production with Dash Arts was the culmination of 3 years of research and development into the lives of migrant communities in London. Adventures in Wonderland has toured to the British Library, Oxford Story Museum and Newbury Watermill. Arming The World (2017) developed in association with Ice&Fire, and coproduced with multiple venues across London reached a wide and extremely diverse audience most of whom were non-theatre goers.
Over the past ten years, we have received significant public arts funding. We have delivered multiple successful projects with grants from ACE, the
National Lottery, Lewisham Council and Deptford Challenge Trust amongst
"Almost anywhere is a possible stage for this most creative of theatre groups.
The challenge they set themselves is to break free of tradition and collaborate
with their audience. Absolutely not the West End." The Guardian
WHY WE ARE SUBMITTING
Whilst large institutions are in a great deal of trouble, they are able to be more vocal about the problems facing the theatre industry. But it is smaller companies like ours that are innovators in the sector – we were making immersive work before it was the popular phenomenon we see today! Big institutions rely on the creativity of small companies to create the thriving artistic climate that the UK has. We also connect the different areas of the arts community that large organisations struggle to reach alone. We enable large organisations to work with us to reach those who wouldn’t usually enter their buildings. There is a great deal of theatre that happens in and with local communities who don’t access the Arts in any other way, and it is at just as much risk as the mainstream work that makes the headlines in this time of crisis. We are submitting here because we’d like the voice of the smaller companies to be heard.
WHAT HAS BEEN THE IMMEDIATE EFFECT OF COVID-19?
Due to Covid-19 we had to cancel our co-production of Access All Areas and of multiple shows for the Crystal Palace Festival. This resulted in a significant financial loss to the company but also meant that 25 freelance arts professionals all lost work.
We were in negotiation with Lewisham Borough of Culture about two large scale projects which would have meant a great deal of funding coming into the organisation which would have enabled us to make work over the next year with up to 40 freelance professionals. This is now delayed until 2022.
Like many smaller arts organisations, income from projects sustains our every day running costs (we currently receive no core funding due to austerity cuts to local government). We’re proud of how efficient our organisational costs are: We have no building to run, our entire organisation is run on cloud based computing, and we make a remarkable amount of work for the small salaries paid to our Artistic Directors. We’re also a lifeline to a large number of freelancers, providing solid tranches of work throughout the year. This year we will be unable to do this.
How effectively has the support provided by DCMS, other Government departments and arms-length bodies addressed the sector’s needs?
The Arts Council has been brilliant at putting in place emergency funding, advocating for the arts and pushing public debate into thinking about how the arts will be able to continue in the future.
What will the likely long-term impacts of Covid-19 be on the sector, and what support is needed to deal with those?
With the sector likely to be one of the last to open up and the first to close with any future increases in Covid-19 things are pretty bleak. Gathering audiences together is going to be difficult for a considerable time. The performers, directors and technicians who work in this field are almost entirely freelance and have very little access to creating public work. In order not to lose multiple generations of artists and theatre makers some kind of universal basic income seems to be the only way forward.
It would also be helpful to have some tailored thinking and regulations for the sector: Many organisations – particularly those who, like us, make immersive, site-specific or outdoor work - can be flexible in their thinking, and if allowed, could potentially come up with new ways of making theatre that take into consideration social distancing, avoiding large scale gathering and so on. A blanket ban on the theatre industry for some time would therefore seem unhelpful.
What lessons can be learnt from how DCMS, arms-length bodies and the sector have dealt with Covid-19?
ACE and the DCMS have responded swiftly and have continued to consult all parts of the sector and this has to be applauded. The emergency funding has been vital to keep the sector going. Now is the time to find ways of supporting theatre artists in the long term – using these same methods of funding and consultation with the massive freelance workforce to enable them to find a way through sustaining British theatre culture.
How might the sector evolve after Covid-19, and how can DCMS support such innovation to deal with future challenges?
In socially distanced times there will have to be fewer audience numbers in any one show – this will mean either vastly higher ticket prices which will exclude a wide range of people, or a larger amount of state subsidy of the arts – more in line with European nations.