As a theatre critic/interested person, I really like it when the theatre programme I’m issued with is also the text of the new play I’m seeing. Years ago, before I started reviewing, I always bought a copy of the text so that I could read it and think about if further afterwards. Now, I don’t usually have to.
Take a recent experience seeing Strindberg’s Creditors and Miss Julie in a single afternoon/evening at Jermyn Street. Well of course I’m familiar with Miss Julie (and I saw this production at Jermyn Street last year anyway) but Creditors was new to me so it was really useful to be given a text-based “programme” published by Nick Hern Books and to be able to read Howard Brenton’s new version script afterwards. It certainly beats trying to scribble down especially memorable or pertinent lines in the dark and finding them totally illegible later. You feel less pressurised too if you know that you have it all to hand for later reference.
Nick Hern told me in interview last year that when he first set up his eponymous publishing house such programme/texts were crucial to staying afloat. “Venues and production companies need quite large numbers of them and, in the days, when you could park at say, the Criterion Theatre stage door, I used to deliver them myself in big boxes” he recalled.
Not that NHB is the only company to be involved in this useful work. New play texts are also published in programme form by, for example. Oberon Books, Methuen Drama and others.
So I am constantly acquiring new play texts. Years ago when I had a lot more space I would have kept them carefully on shelves in alphabetical order as I did conventional theatre and concert programmes. Now living in a much smaller house (well and truly “downsized”) I simply read/use them to inform my review and anything else I need to write and then when I’ve finished with them they have to go. And I accept that decision with impunity because if ever I need to refer to this text again I can easily, instantly and cheaply by a download and consult it via the Kindle app on my iPad.
The good news is that one of the carers I hire in regularly to look after my ailing husband when I am out working is a Rose Bruford Drama student. I now give all finished-with play texts to her. She can then read, keep or pass on to other students or maybe donate to the Rose Bruford library if she wishes. Lots of pluses.