The Theatre Forum Annual Conference at Wexford Opera House had the title Resilience and Renewal and in the light of the bombshell three month closure of Cork Opera House that broke during the conference, quality programme of talks and discussion that just seemed to get lost in a depression of bad news and worse fears.
Last year as the young and often optimistic walked down from the impressive Opera House I likened it to Golgotha, but the three days in the tomb are gone. There were less young people attending, and this was a conference top heavy with administrators not makers of art. The press were not particularly welcome, no doubt some sort of damage limitation, dressed up as a cost saving.
Cork Opera House had losses of €3000,000 approx for 2009 and the board had been advised it had to cut costs by €500,000 from a spend of €3.5 million last year. An interim Chief Executive has about 31 permanent staff to consider but it is not just pay cuts but redundancies are now a possibility.
Cork City Council, the venue’s largest shareholder was asked to support a bank loan over €1,000,000 and was putting in an additional €80,000 to support cash flow. The Council have now agreed a €1,000,000 interest free loan.
This did not deter Theatre Forum holding a BBQ banquet in the courtyard of White’s Hotel. The menu available on Facebook listed items such as Grilled Ratatouille, Arab spice tiger Prawn, Thai beef, French dressing, olives teriyaki seafood with Strawberries and cream. A sort of banquet of the vanities. Ollie Breslin and Ben Hennessey enjoyed the fare and enjoyed the ambience at their round table.
Me, I went to the theatre, at the Arts Centre and enjoyed the Blanche, a grotesque physical knockabout comedy about shopping and the times we live in. Devised by Ciaran Taylor and performed by Bryan Burroughs, Jamie Carswell and Amy Conroy. They told several satirical jokes about BBQ’s and the arts. The audience applauded warmly.
On the Friday night I returned to the same venue to enjoy The Bloomsday Solstice by Caca Milis Cabaret. A real mix and gatherum of songs, video and some wicked web cartoons by two irreverent young students Chris O’Neill and Sean Kiely. Their crude but clever Leo and Satan shorts have hundreds of thousands of hits on YouTube. Caca Milis are the brainchild of Cyril Murphy and Helena Mulkerns. This was funky fun edgy stuff with belly dancing, a harpist, a brilliant steel guitarist and readings from Ulysses as well as Tom Mooney doing a free form poem to jazz tunes on a Homeric theme.
No doubt the arts will survive, administrators will move on but out of the debts and depts. Of bleakness it will be harder to restore confidence and hopes of a career path.