A Year in the Life of a Gate Producer
Cliché as it may sound, making theatre this year has felt like riding a rollercoaster.
When I joined the Gate in early 2022, we were still reeling from the pandemic, and so we were spending our time planning, dreaming, programming and strategizing. Then, as we were getting ready to actually make some theatre, we lost our government funding. We were cut from the Arts Council’s regular portfolio in a decision that was truly devasting, not just for us but for companies across London. Even now, each month comes with the news of another company closure and we have to fight so much harder to survive.
By this point I was a producer who hadn’t produced in nearly a year. I was chomping at the bit to create shows, and I feared this decision would signal the end. But with a resilience I have not known in any other team I’ve worked with, the Gate forged ahead with our ambitious 2023 season – and boy did it deliver!
In January we went straight into Bootycandy written by Robert O’Hara and directed by the absolute force that is Tristan Fynn-Aiduenu. It was the biggest production the Gate had ever made, in cast size, budget and ambition. It was both brilliant and incredibly challenging. The environment for making theatre has totally shifted. The events of the last few years (political, social and economic) have left everyone shaken, bruised and feeling vulnerable. Never have I felt the importance of people and care-centred processes more. Bootycandy is not a play that shies away from rawness – in fact it actively encourages you to examine the painful parts and find anger, vibrancy, and joy in those wounds. It was an incredibly confronting piece to make this year, but more vital for it. After our funding cut this was a show that kicked down the door to remind audiences and critics what the Gate can do.
In the blistering heat of the summer, we worked with award winning carbon neutral theatre company Pigfoot, to create HOT IN HERE. This show was devised around interviews conducted with over 40 climate activists from around the globe, and examined the personal stories that sit inside the politics of activism, in a time when our right to protest is increasingly under threat. This show reminded me that making theatre is an inherently political act, that by definition it is a form of collective action. The whole team, from our Chair, Human Rights advocate Shami Chakrabarti to performers, from creatives to staff team, explored different routes of activism, recorded voiceovers, ran lines, danced, drew protest placards, interviewed climate crisis experts – and during tech week I even designed and sewed a dress out of a hospital gown. This was theatre at its most unifying, and it warmed every part of my heart to see it come together on that stage.
And this round up of our season wouldn’t be complete without shouting out Brassic FM – our final show of 2023, co-created by Stef O’Driscoll and Zia Ahmed. This show was a labour of love, rooted in pirate radio, rave and soundsystem cultures. This was a show that looked at how working class and migrant identities have always sat at the heart of the cultural melting pot of London. There is truly nothing else like this show. It completely threw the theatre rule book out of the window – between shout outs, call ins and rave sequences the audience were inside the show, tuning in to their own pirate radio station and engaging with the work in a unique way. It was pure poetry. We battled through technical challenges when our ambition outstripped our power supply, and there were moments when it felt impossible, but what went onto that stage was brave, fun and provocative. Everything the Gate has always tried to be.
This year we welcomed nearly 3,000 people across 77 performances of 3 shows, worked with 11 performers, 40 creative freelancers, 20 production team members, 1 baby and a dog. We laughed, danced, cried, gave standing ovations, ranted about the state of the world, lost and found hope, and most importantly, we persevered.
Maybe I am bit of an adrenaline seeker, but I always leave rollercoasters raring for the next one, and I can promise that 2024 is going to be another big year for the Gate. I hope you’ll come with on the ride!
Alice Linnane, Gate Producer