Excerpts from The Guardian newspaper by Lyn Gardner, via ArtsJournal.com:
Theatre needs windows on the world
Gulf Stage gives theatre an invaluable opportunity to look outwards
posted by Lyn Gardner at Guardian.uk, January 31
As we know, nowadays all the world's a stage. [. . . ] Today it's being broadened further, as the British Council launches Gulf Stage, a new project made in association with Digital Theatre, who have previously worked with the Almeida and Young Vic among others. For those of us unable to hop on a plane to research Arab theatre, Gulf Stage allows audiences around the world to access filmed recordings of six productions from young companies hailing from Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the UAE. All the productions have English subtitles and, unlike Digital Theatre's other productions, will be free to download for the first year.
This project is useful for several reasons. We often talk about the world becoming a smaller place, but too often companies visiting from abroad here find themselves up against restrictive visa rules, and with the British Council sending so much UK theatre abroad, it's good to see them building two-way relationships. Although the UK, and particularly London, now sees a wide range of work from abroad, there are still entire areas of the globe about whose theatre we're ignorant, and which – if it does manage to find its way here – is presented like a piece of cultural exotica. In the past, the only way to get a taste of Arab theatre would be to travel. While these downloads are no substitute for experiencing a live performance, they offer a chance for artists, audiences and producers to make cultural links across geographical borders. In the longer term this online project may have an offline life through many different social media platforms. A Younger Theatre is involved with the project, to try and encourage engagement by young artists and audiences across the world. Maybe, as a result of Gulf Stage, we may see some of this work on our stages or UK companies will forge relationships that lead to collaboration.