It’s good to see the BBC at last stepping up to the plate and broadcasting theatre Live from Television Centre that starts at 9pm on Sunday 15 November and take the form of a two-hour live broadcast and an exclusive piece for BBC iPlayer. What’s really interesting is that the BBC hasn’t just looked to London or the mainstream but, with the help of Battersea Arts Centre who are co-curating the event, it has peered beyond the usual suspects. The evening features a range of seriously exciting and groundbreaking work from independent companies and artists working in participation, disabled-led art and more.
The performances will include the endlessly inventive and visually striking Gecko with The Time of Your Life, Touretteshero’s Broadcast from Biscuit Land (a version of the glorious Backstage in Biscuit Land made by Jess Thom), Common Wealth’s No Guts, No Heart, No Glory, made with young female Muslim boxers, and a version of Richard Dedomenici’s The Redux Project, in which memorable moments from shows such as Top of the Pops, the Eurovision Song Contest and BBC News will be recreated using low-rent props. Islington Community Theatre’s utterly gripping Brainstorm, created and performed by teenagers, will be available on iPlayer the same day.
This is a significant project, alerting audiences to work that uses entirely different techniques and language from most mainstream theatre, and shows that in 2015 theatre often means something very different from a play. As David Jubb, art director of Battersea Arts Centre, said: “For a long time, theatre created by independent artists has been perceived as fringe or experimental, as opposed to that created by big, building-based theatres. This has always seemed odd to me because much of the theatre by independent artists is deeply accessible. In the music business, independent bands and musicians have mass followings and there is wide appreciation of the value they contribute to the scene.”
At a time when arts funding cuts are likely to disproportionately affect the least well supported, touring becomes increasingly difficult and NTLive is too often a one-way street from London or Stratford to the rest of the country, Live from Television Centre could be significant. Not just as a showcase for some of the most interesting work being created by theatre artists, but also an exploration of how theatre and TV might work together to create new access for audiences.