Cash cuts force National Theatre of Scotland tours rethink

THE National Theatre of Scotland, the company behind the globally successful Black Watch and the critically acclaimed James Plays, has warned that it might have to cut back on future productions and touring commitments across the country because of funding cuts.

National Theatre of Scotland productions have included the award-winning Black Watch
National Theatre of Scotland productions have included the award-winning Black Watch

However, the theatre could increase its activity in England and abroad as fresh funding becomes available to tour productions outside Scotland.

The company, which celebrates its tenth anniversary later this year, has become renowned for its daring performances and successful productions.

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But artistic director Laurie Sansom will warn the potential impact of a 3 per cent cut to its budget could be stark when he appears before MSPs on Holyrood’s education and culture committee this week.

The company has been forced to “re-examine” its budgets from 2016/17 onwards “in light of Scottish Government grant reductions”, a submission to MSPs reveals.

“The impact of a 3 per cent 2016/17 cut and those mooted beyond that is a cutback on the number and reach of productions that the company is able to tour across Scotland,” it states.

The company does not own its own performance space and has “minimal overheads”, including fewer than 50 staff – small compared with similar organisations.

“The opportunity for savings to be found from non-production areas of the company’s operation is slim and will decrease over the subsequent two years of forecast grant reductions,” it adds.

The reversal of the proposed 3 per cent funding cut would allow the “reinstatement in planning terms of programme cuts”.

The success of the National Theatre over the past decade is widely seen as breathing new life into Scottish drama, resulting in a mini-renaissance that has seen Scottish plays and productions sought after by festivals and theatres around the world.

It was driven by the phenomenal success of Black Watch, first staged in the company’s inaugural year. Gregory Burke’s play relives the experiences of a group of Scottish soldiers in Iraq and took the Edinburgh Festival Fringe by storm in 2006, before touring Scotland the following year.

It was also staged in Los Angeles and New York, before going on to Australia, New Zealand, Toronto and South Korea. In all it enjoyed seven years of global touring, racking up 20 awards along the way, and was seen by more than a quarter of a million people.

NTS has seen a cumulative cut of almost £900,000 in its core grant funding from the Scottish Government between 2011 and last year.

It joins the country’s other national performing companies in facing a 3 per cent cut to its budget next year, with Scottish Opera, the Royal Scottish National Orchestra, Scottish Chamber Orchestra and Scottish Ballet having to find savings.

Their bosses will also join the NTS chief before MSPs next week, with Chris Hampson, artistic director of Scottish Ballet, also setting out a stark impact in the organisation’s submission.

“The challenges ahead from a financial perspective surround contracting income and uncertainty,” the organisation states in a submission to MSPs.

“As core funding is tightened, Scottish Ballet and many comparative organisations are seeking alternative sources of funding, all from a limited set of potential funders.

“Further, the variability of such income streams hampers our ability to confidently plan for major expenditure commitments in future years.”