Brexit is a looming crisis for British stage industry and international theatre

Olivia Miller
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Dr Margherita Laera, an expert in contemporary theatre practice in Europe, at the School of Arts has commented on how Brexit is set to affect the British stage industry, the operation of international theatre tours and cultural experiences of theatre-goers. She said:

‘Current theatre closures caused by the pandemic may soon come to an end as the vaccination rollout progresses, but Brexit now threatens the performing arts industry with another perfect storm for many years to come. Producing venues and touring companies are now required to deal with additional costs and bureaucracy to obtain work visas for creative teams and to move scenery across borders. These hurdles are putting many fringe and mainstream venues and companies, including top players such as the National Theatre and Sadler’s Wells, off touring to Europe altogether. This represents a huge loss of income for an industry that would normally generate revenues over £10.8 billion a year for the UK economy and £2.8 billion a year for the Treasury – but which is already on its knees due to Covid-19.

‘Although subsidised by the state, the British stage industry relies more heavily on external income – such as ticket sales and commercial touring – than many of its European counterparts, such as the German and French theatre systems. Moreover, the UK is a net exporter of theatre: this means that it exports more home-grown productions than it imports foreign ones. This is due to the general perception that foreign stage productions do not attract the attention of many audience members in Britain, while British productions abroad are well sought after. Brexit will therefore disproportionally affect the British theatre industry and its many freelancers, who relied on freedom of movement within the single market to make ends meet.

‘It must also be stressed how Brexit will be very bad news for British theatre-goers, who will see the proportion of excellent European productions touring to the UK drop even further, in what was already a very insular and inhospitable context before Brexit. Theatre is about witnessing the stories of others – it is about sharing the same space and understanding our common humanity despite differences in culture, ethnicity, language, ability, gender, religion, and so on. As citizens of increasingly globalised societies, we need to train our intercultural competence and foster our ability to empathise with culturally distant others through theatre. Ultimately, these obstacles caused by Brexit will deprive British theatre-goers of many fabulous opportunities to connect with the stories presented by fellow European artists and makers. This will be detrimental to the cultural and intellectual life of British society as a whole, including the 3.7 million EU citizens who still live in the UK.’

Dr Margherita Laera’s main research interests lie at the intersection of theatre and modern foreign languages, with a focus on theatre translation and adaptation; multilingual theatre; staging and teaching plays in translation; teaching languages through drama; intercultural theatre; reception of ancient Greek theatre. Her publications have focused on the politics of contemporary theatre practice in Italy, Britain and continental Europe, with an emphasis on modern and contemporary experimental performance and playwriting. She is interested in the way theatre and performance produce, disseminate or resist ideological discourses and beliefs around community, identity and otherness.

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