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Guest Blog: Artistic Director Paul Miller on the Orange Tree Theatre's Recovery Season

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New productions will help welcome audiences back to theatre

Guest Blog: Artistic Director Paul Miller on the Orange Tree Theatre's Recovery Season
Paul Miller

As our Recovery Season at the Orange Tree Theatre continues, it's worthwhile considering what exactly we are recovering. A standard definition of recovery is a return to normal. And there were probably many who hoped that there would be a swift return to business as usual after a horrible but aberrant period.

But the return to live performance this year has been a slow and sometimes awkward process. And it will continue to be so for some time. Audiences are re-learning the habit they lost, and the business is still digesting the lessons learned by the great rupture.

Our programme at the OT is a coalition. We produce a range of new plays by emerging talents, contemporary revivals of rarely seen work, and unexpectedly entertaining rediscoveries from our dramatic heritage. It's a coalition of audiences, too. Some see everything, some choose carefully what's for them; some are staunchly loyal locals, some travel to see something special; some savour the richness of the old plays, some yearn for the shock of the new. It means that night by night a unique mix of people sit together who've found their way here for very different reasons and the chemistry is different each time.

When I set out as Artistic Director at the OT, I said that I wanted to get the Orange Tree out into the world more (we've co-produced, transferred and toured many shows) and to get more of the world into the Orange Tree. This last seems even more apposite now. We are so much more alert to difference, now that our eyes have been opened to each other by this violent tear in society's fabric. And having been comprehensively saved by the government's Culture Recovery Fund, it has felt important in our Recovery Season that we produce work that shows many facets of life as its lived: always aiming to entertain, this can sometimes be uncomfortable and occasionally challenging.

Guest Blog: Artistic Director Paul Miller on the Orange Tree Theatre's Recovery Season
Two Billion Beats

In Ingmar Bergman's love letter to the theatre, Fanny and Alexander, the inscription in Latin on the proscenium of the child's toy theatre reads "Not Solely for Pleasure". My definition of a serious theatre includes the joyously hilarious While the Sun Shines by Terence Rattigan, but this year we've also shown work that looks at how friends react to a terminal illness, how apartheid South Africa has uncomfortable truths for us all in the Black Lives Matter era, and the effect of global trade on two women of South Asian heritage in Australia: it's been eclectic, stimulating and eye-opening.

After our Christmas show for all from 2 to 102, Pinocchio, we have four new productions that continue this exploratory path. A play about great moral issues tackled by the cleverest girl in school by Sonali Bhattacharyya (Two Billion Beats), a contemporary classic which looks at a nuclear family buckling under pressure (Tom Fool), a new play by Pamela Carter about the male public school ethos leading to disaster, set in Germany in the 30s (The Misfortune of the English) and Marivaux's exquisitely funny and subversive take on what happens when a young woman decides to take on male corruption (The False Servant).

Our recovery is about rebuilding the unique OT coalition and starting to hard-wire the theatre-going habit back in to regular existence. It's about using the miracle of our survival to reconnect us all to society. And also about using our good fortune that we still exist as an employer to generate work and opportunities for the severely distressed body of creative people who make up our industry.

Like many, we are a little bruised and shaken but also amazed and delighted to be back in business. And with the next stage of our Recovery Season we look forward to welcoming audiences back again, newly fascinated by the world around us.

Find out more about the Orange Tree Theatre and book tickets here


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