Theatre Royal Plymouth: ‘I don’t know what I’d be doing without it’

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Edward Borlase

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Laura Horton wants to show the government how her local theatre has help individuals locally

A woman has sent dozens of personal stories in a letter to the government to highlight the urgent need for support for the theatre that launched her career.

Playwright Laura Horton has collected accounts from more than 60 people explaining how Theatre Royal Plymouth (TRP) changed their lives.

Last week, TRP said 100 jobs were at risk because of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Ms Horton said the news was “deeply sad”.

“When I found out, I was so upset and angry I just needed to channel it into something positive.”

In her letter to Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden, Ms Horton said she wanted to highlight the improvement the theatre makes “to mental health, mutual understanding, education and community spirit”.

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Theatre Royal Plymouth said up to 100 jobs are at risk because of Covid-19

Ms Horton previously worked at TRP as an usher, shredder and press assistant. Now the theatre has embraced her as a playwright.

“I went to a local comprehensive and wasn’t from a privileged background. I never would have thought I was capable of doing a job like this.

“There’s a long way to go to make the arts more diverse but if you lose the producing venues of the country, we’ll be set back so much.

“I don’t think it’s good enough to just have London as a hub of theatre,” she said.

‘Unimaginable pride’

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Alex Ward says the theatre gave him a ‘platform’

Alex Ward, 20, says without TRP “I don’t know what I’d be doing”.

It enabled me, as a working class boy, to find myself and my passion,” he says.

“I am a product of TRP and I say this with unimaginable pride.”

Mr Ward did his first young company production when he was 17.

“It’s a place I can go be heard for the person I am and the work I want to create,” he says.

Mr Ward fears any risk to TRP will hit working class children the hardest who “won’t get the chance to express themselves and have their voices heard”.

“I am just one of many young people born in a deprived part of the country who has been given a path into this industry by TRP,” he says.

‘Absolutely life-changing’

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“It showed me what theatre was outside of my very rural bubble,” says Roni Neale

Aged 16, Roni Neal took part in National Theatre Connections – a project that brought together young people from around the UK.

The performance that year took place at TRP and it was there she made friends for life.

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Theatre Royal Plymouth is a registered charity

“It was absolutely life-changing and showed me what theatre was outside of my very rural bubble.

“Coming to TRP, there was just something extraordinary about the scale and spectacle of a dedicated, properly funded performance space and it allowed me to perform to hundreds of people – even more mind-blowing.”

The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport said performing arts were “one of the UK’s great success stories” and it was “doing all we can to support the sector”.