Today The Stage has published an open letter to The Guardian protesting at its sacking of Lyn Gardner. Lyn has been a theatre critic for the newspaper for over 20 years and has been remarkable in her attention to the experimental, the cross-artform, to small companies, to regional theatre. While the paper's first-string critic, Michael Billington, is, of course, an important writer on the plays of national attention, Lyn complements this wonderfully offering a vision of the future.
The Guardian have decided not to renew her contract. I don't want to downplay The Guardian's problems; they, like a lot of journalism, are finding it hard to transition from a world of print, funded by newspaper buyers and print advertising, to a world of online news and diminishing, thinly-spread digital advertising. They do have to make cuts, but this, I think, is not where they should make them.
When the news broke last week, I drafted a letter fairly quickly and sent it round to a few friends and contacts asking them to add their names and to send it on to their lists. David Lan was the first to say yes and the names then started pouring in. Some of the signatories made valuable suggestions about changes to the text of the letter (particular thanks to Dennis Kelly and Tom Morris for improvements).
Eventually I had around 120 names, representing a huge range of British theatre, including the artistic directors of the Royal Court, the National Theatres of Scotland and Wales, The Bush, The Orange Tree, The Gate, The Yard, The Almeida, Edinburgh's Royal Lyceum, The Traverse, the Liverpool Everyman Playhouse, Bristol Old Vic, Manchester's Royal Exchange, Lancaster's The Dukes, Northern Stage, Chichester Festival Theatre, Contact Theatre, Forced Entertainment, Theatr Clywd, Battersea Arts Centre, Graeae, Out of Joint, Third Angel, Forest Fringe, Slung Low, Tamasha, Made in China, Improbable, Action Hero, Filter, Punchdrunk and more - plus individual artists and theatre makers including Tim Crouch, April De Angelis, Alistair McDowall, Tanya Moodie, Katie Mitchell, David Eldridge, Lucy Kirkwood, Wendy Houston, Lucy Prebble, Chris Goode, David Harrower, Lindsey Turner, Nic Green, Bryony Kimmings, Lou Brealey, Rory Mullarkey, Melly Still, Moira Buffini, Jack Thorne, James Graham, Zinnie Harris, Stephen Daldry, David Edgar, Duncan McMillan, Stella Duffy, Shelley Silas, Roy Williams and still more. More names have come in since I sent the letter off. At some points emails were coming in so thick and fast, I'm worried I ay have missed some. But it's a powerful statement of support - and it's not often you get thearre makers supporting a critic.
There's a Howard Barker play, A Hard Heart, in which a genius is charged with defending a city under siege. In transforming every aspect of the city into a technology for prosecuting a defensive counterattack, the city loses all of the values it was trying to defend. I'm reminded of that so often these days.
I hope The Guardian listen.