17th April 2021

Keeping Independent Theatre Alive: Celebrating the Bucket

Keeping Independent theatre alive

Chris Grace

This is my first time producing and directing in London, and I’m seeing theatrical possibilities at places like the King’s Head that we simply don’t have in the States. There seems to be a whole culture of theatre pubs that I would love to transplant to the US. An influx of scrappy venues with intimate configurations would be a great resource for theatremakers.

Cut to opening night of “Voldemort and the Teenage Hogwarts Musical Parody” and I’m asking how the actors will get their clearance, and someone tells me “they’ll know it’s clearance when the bucket speech starts”.

Ladies and gentlemen, I’m here to celebrate the Bucket.

I’m sure that some might see it as a tedious thing to do… maybe even the staff giving the speech see it that way, although the three people I’ve seen so far seem to carry it off with humor and infectious enthusiasm. But the Bucket for me represents possibilities that we don’t have back home.

The fact that a 100-ish theatre space can put on an independent production and pay their cast and crew a negotiated Equity rate is a huge achievement.

It’s simply not a thing in America, as far as I know. The financial setups have put us in a situation where a small space must generally use non-union actors… and in rare cases where you think you can pull it off financially, you end up charging fairly exorbitant ticket prices, particularly for theatre with production values on a relatively small scale.

So when I hear those hardy theatre staff explaining how the King’s Head needs to make an extra £100,000 on top of ticket sales to remain in the space, I recognize that the Bucket, and all the money that goes into it, is part of what makes it possible for sharp and specific experiences like “Voldemort” and our venue-mates in “World’s End” to bring their work to the stage while paying a fair wage.

Please know and cherish that there appears to be a whole infrastructure for independent theatre here that isn’t a given in other parts of the world… and the fact that it co-exists on a spectrum from Fringe to West End is what makes London an incredible city for theatre. I will be buying a DVD and tea towel from the bucket holder … even if I don’t have a DVD player and I don’t know what a tea towel is for.

Mother Dirt

Published in Collaboration with King’s Head Theatre:

King's Head Theatre

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Also By Kings Head Theatre:

What Do You Do? Artistic Director – Adam Spreadbury-Maher

Beauty And The Beast: A Gender Swap Performance

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The King’s Head Theatre was established in 1970. Passionate about championing ethically produced fringe theatre, we are known for our challenging work and support of young artists. Last year 116,151 audience members saw a show of ours: 44,607 at our 110-seater home on Upper Street and 71,544 elsewhere. At our home in Islington we had 774 performances last year of 95 different shows. We are committed to fighting prejudice through the work we stage, the artists and staff we work with and by producing work for minority audience groups. We believe in fair pay for all on the fringe and create accessible routes for early career artists to stage their work; work we are passionate about. Last year we announced the theatre is on the move. Subject to a fundraising campaign, the King’s Head Theatre will move into a custom-built space in the heart of Islington Square, directly behind its current home securing the future of the venue for generations to come.

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