Show must go on for theatre company

Esk Valley Theatre Company''Mark and Sheila Carter''w122220b
Esk Valley Theatre Company''Mark and Sheila Carter''w122220b
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A professional theatre company that brings performances, featuring big name actors, to the Esk Valley has missed out on vital funding from the Arts Council for the second time.

Esk Valley Theatre Company is now looking at ways that it can make up the £12,000 shortfall - more than 25% of the total costs for staging the annual summer show.

It is the second time the organisation has lost out on the cash and with such a big amount to raise themselves, the couple behind the venture, Mark Stratton and Sheila Carter are battling to keep the curtains up for future performances.

Mark said: “We applied to their grants for the arts scheme. We have done that lots of times over the years and had six lots of funding from them in nine years but last year and this year our applications have been unsuccessful.

“The year before last they said it was down to competition for funds. This year the reason we were given is that other applications were preferred.

“It is worth remembering it is a competitive process, it is a difficult climate and they have to make difficult decisions. But, we are a bit upset because this is our tenth anniversary and we believe that we have made good use of the public funding that we have had over the last ten years and it feels like there is no reward for success.”

Every year the company stages a production in the Robinson Institute in Glaisdale, which is transformed from a village hall to a working theatre that seats just over 100 people.

Mark is an actor and has starred in the West End, while Sheila is a dance examiner and choreographer. Their reputation precedes them and they hold full auditions each year in London when recruiting the cast for the show.

They also arrange for seating to be built inside the village hall and lighting and a stage to be rigged up. All in all it costs in the region of £40,000 to put on the show.

They also rely on a regular team of volunteers to help out with other roles such as selling ice-creams, manning the bar and ushering people to their seats which helps to keep production costs down.

They are reluctant to put ticket prices up as the ethos behind the theatre company is that it makes theatre more accessible to everyone, hence its rural location, but the nature of the venue means the capacity can’t be increased.

Mark said: “Because of where we are it is very expensive to put everything in place.

“It will probably never be self-funding. Without funding and raising funds, we would be a loss making enterprise but having said that the money involved in it brings benefits to the wider Whitby area in terms of social, economic and cultural.

“Every year has been a battle to survive in some way and for putting the money in place.

“We have had some sleepless nights as to whether we will keep it going but it is worth pointing out that we have surviced by volunteer hours.”

But, the show must go on and Mark and Sheila are looking at ways to bring production costs down.

They include adding extra performances to increase revenue, slightly reducing the rehearsal times and staging other fundraising events between now and August.

Mark added: “Not putting on a show? We don’t think like that and are looking at the positives and moving forward in terms of artistic risk taking and ambition.

“But that is difficult when the funds are reduced.”