The next installment of the ongoing Old Vic fiasco takes place tomorrow night when – what the remnants of the theatre’s trustees are calling – a “special meeting” for the public takes place at the theatre at 6.00pm.
In the absence of a formal publicised agenda, any clear advance financial information or even a simple position statement released for people to properly consider prior to the meeting, it appears the public may well be delivered with a fait accompli regarding the theatre following a typical Bristol establishment behind-closed-doors stitch-up.
The Evening Cancer is claiming that a plan to ditch the current trustees’ pie-in-the-sky £9 million refurbishment plans in favour of vastly cheaper building works aimed at getting the theatre open again quickly will be unveiled by Chair of the Trustees-in-waiting, the Watershed’s Dick Penny.
However, even this is uncertain as Penny has deliberately made himself “unavailable” to the press and hence the public prior to the meeting. The purpose of all this secrecy is unclear. Although the chances are the meeting will be used as the coronation of Penny – personally selected by the outgoing disaster of a Chairman, Rupert Rhymes – as the new theatre boss, since, as far as we know, no other candidate has come forward and the trustees have failed to put anyone else in the frame for the job.
On a more positive note, if Penny comes good on the night and makes the blindingly obvious proposal to kick the current refurbishment plans with their £5m funding deficit into touch in favour of spending far less money dealing quickly with the theatre’s health and safety issues then a result is still possible.
While Rhymes’ daft plan to raise £5m from some unexplained source and then deliver a fancy pants refurbishment was realistically a five year project. Spending £1m-odd to get the place open again is maybe a one year project. This would also have the benefit of delivering productions to Bristol audiences quickly and potentially creating revenue for a decent and realistic refurbishment strategy to be developed.
If over the next year Penny can also recruit a new set of trustees properly versed in business realities, finance and, especially, HR – to maybe prevent whole departments walking out as happened with Rhymes’ education department – then there could be light at the end of the tunnel.
All will be revealed at tomorrow’s meeting, which may well be some of the best entertainment to be had from the Old Vic in years. Actors Stephanie Cole, Patrick Malahide and Jane Lapotaire will be going along, apparently, as will the cream of Bristol’s luvvie community. Pompous pontificating, sensitive artist whining over the cruelties of the Arts Council, foghorn-voiced bombast and blustering buffoonery of the highest order should all be in good supply!