Theatre company’s future in limbo

AN Alnwick-based theatre company is facing the threat of closure ahead of its biggest ever tour.

Northumberland Theatre Company’s (NTC) production of A Midsummer Night’s Dreamhas been planned for summer and autumn and has been booked by a record 54 venues, both in and out of the region.

The tour is set to be the most successful yet and for the first time will feature a number of outdoor performances, but the whole run may have to be cancelled if the company isn’t successful with its latest funding bids.

Gillian Hambleton, artistic director at NTC, is astounded by the response to the plans for the summer tour.

She said: “We had 42 venues book up within 14 days, so the demand for our product is definitely there, it’s just a shame this hasn’t been recognised with regular funding.”

NTC has applied for Strategic Touring funding from the Arts Council, the result of which will be announced on 30th April. This will determine whether the tour of A Midsummer Night’s Dream goes ahead, and may ultimately decide the company’s future.

Gillian added: “It is very hand to mouth. If this funding doesn’t come through we will have to make some very tough decisions and we know a few theatre companies who have had to shut up shop due to the funding cuts, which makes me incredibly angry.

“We would be devastated if NTC came to an end, and I think the rural communities we visit would also feel a great loss, but at the same time we want to maintain the high quality of theatre that we have a reputation for.”

“We will be in limbo until the result of our bid comes through at the end of April. There may be tough times ahead for NTC but we are extremely grateful for all of the help and support we have received so far, and we’re not ready to give up the fight just yet.”

Emmerdale actress Charlie Hardwick, who is currently starring in the play The Awkward Squad in London’s West End, worked with NTC early in her acting career and has spoken out in support of the company.

She said: “I had the privilege of working with NTC in ‘Country Voices’ when I was trying to establish a career for myself as an actress. NTC has made a massive contribution not only to culturally starved, out-of-sight communities it plays to but also to the development of many performers in our region. Both established and new actors have benefited greatly from NTC’s role as an employer. Their support of burgeoning young talent in actors’ apprenticeship opportunities, is progressive and unprecedented.

“Many of us would not have been able to commence let alone continue without the commitment and encouragement provided by this dedicated company. Gillian and NTC are a vital component in the delicate cultural eco-system of our fruitful yet hungry region. I am eternally grateful for the part they played in helping me develop my career as an actor, and as an ambassador for my beloved North East. ”

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