Indhu Rubasingham believes theatre is thriving in London, but sustaining it means that drama must not become a forgotten subject in our schools and beyond
If I’d had to pay tuition fees at university, I’m pretty certain that my parents would not have been jumping for joy at my proposal to study drama. I now feel incredibly lucky to have gone to university at a time when fees weren’t an issue. My local authority even covered the fees for post-graduate training at drama school, which seems incredible now. But without that support, I just don’t think that someone from my background would have been able to pursue the career I’ve had and that has brought me to the Tricycle Theatre.
Access, opportunity and education in my industry are burning issues for me. These days, I see how much harder and harder it’s becoming for young people to get opportunities to succeed in the arts. It’s not just because of the rising cost of education – it’s also the downgrading of drama and the arts in the curriculum. Together these can’t help but have a negative impact on diversity in the industry.
What we’re doing at the theatre with the Tricycle Young Company is our way of showing why the arts are so important in young people’s learning. At the time of writing, The Kilburn Passion a new play by Suhayla El-Bushra, the first play specially commissioned for Tricycle Young Company, is due to return after a successful first run. When I first watched the show in April, tired and emotional after a really busy time at the Tricycle, I just cried. I have high standards – for myself and for them – and although it had only been a year since we first talked about what the Young Company might achieve, they surpassed my expectations. Seeing this diverse group of mainly local young people brought everything home to me: our Creative Learning programme can offer a taster of how theatre’s made, but our work’s only a piece of the puzzle. If drama isn’t properly valued in school and if young people are making decisions about whether to study or train in the arts based on the financial viability of their choices, we just won’t get the diversity of voices coming through.
It’s over two years since I became Artistic Director of the Tricycle Theatre and I’m really proud of the work we have staged. I always try to engage with what I think the audiences want to come and see and I’m proud that we’ve been getting that right! I just hope that in the future there will be many others who get the opportunity to do what I have done.
The Tricycle’s autumn season kicks off with True West by Sam Shepard on 4 September 2014. Find out more at tricycle.co.uk