As a new theatre company on the block the pressure is often present to find a ‘niche’. Maybe you produce exclusively new work or work that explores certain issues ,or perhaps it is delivered in site specific venues or locations; regardless there seems a need to find a unique selling point in your work.
When launching Fourth Monkey I looked at our ‘product’, and although we have a keen eye for new and developing talent, looking to offer opportunities to performers and professionals at the outset of their careers our mission statement was a simple one; to deliver high calibre work for a contemporary audience that returns to the theatrical concepts of days gone by.
The theatre was once a place, not so long ago where writers, creatives and the arts world as a whole created work that challenged its audiences with a diet that tackled difficult social issues and evoked an audience to react, or at the very least think. Look no further than the angry young men of the british theatre scene of only fifty years ago, I refer to the Osborne’s, the Pinter’s and Beckett’s of this world. Writers and practitioners that challenged their audiences and made them think and often respond.
We live in a time where boldness in the arts has been replaced by an apparent reluctance to challenge and a certain apathy on the part of the audience. Does an audience not wish to be confronted with theatre that makes them discuss the work, as well as the issues referred to in it as opposed to simply the costumes on the way home? Should the work we are witnessing not relate to the challenging issues that surround our every day?
I strongly believe it does and I also believe profoundly, that if we are going to have an active and participatory theatre audience in the future we need to give them a different diet from that of the tired, superficial musical theatre one most young people are familiar with today. Yes theatre as entertainment has its place, but theatre and art are so much more than this. Aren’t they?
This is not a crusade and neither am I so bold as to suggest that we are the only company trying to truly engage an audience in the contemporary theatre world, we simply wish to play our part alongside the many talented companies delivering fresh and innovative work in the UK today, in defiance of the shameful arts cuts we are now facing.
By selecting and developing work that is uncompromising and challenging in its message and bold in its delivery we can offer the young theatre audience of today something different and something they appear to wish to be part of, something that they can relate to and share in and equally something financially they can afford to witness.
Our work has been described as visceral, passionate and overflowing with energy. Sadly, this is not a unique selling point of course, but it is our philosophy on how theatre should be.
Here’s to a future where we continue to flourish and theatre itself sees a renaissance, where the work and the message within reaches far beyond four walls in a darkened room and maybe, just maybe, plays a small part in allowing silent voices to be heard and perhaps even real change in our troubled society. This is something art can do, it’s just forgotten it has a responsibility and opportunity to do so.
Fourth Monkey Theatre Company
Currently rehearsing for a transfer of Anthony Burgess’ A Clockwork Orange 9-12 March at the Croydon Clocktower.