THE Tricycle Theatre has long been known for explosive content and Nick Kent’s final season, centred around the issue of the nuclear bomb, will be no different.
One of the UK’s longest serving and most respected artistic directors announced he was standing down from the theatre in Kilburn High Road last year due to huge funding cuts from the Arts Council England.
The theatre, which operates as a charity, will receive almost £350,000 less in the next financial year and Nick said at the time the new director would have a tough first year as fundraising would have to be doubled.
The director of many contentious and popular plays, including Richard Norton-Taylor’s The Colour of Injustice: The Stephen Lawrence Enquiry, and The Great Game: Afghanistan, will leave at the end of April and said he chose the nuclear theme as it had largely gone unnoticed among playwrights and the media.
The 67-year-old said: “It all started when we did Women, Power and Politics before the last election. I was talking to Shirley William about the fact that theatre had not looked at nuclear issues but we would soon have to make a national decision about Trident and she felt it was very important that something was done as there had been no national discussion about it.
“The year I was born was the first explosion in Hiroshima and Nagasaki so I have grown up in the nuclear age and while the testing was going on. We all worried about fall-out.”
He said he believes that although much of 20th century history is coloured by the threat of nuclear war and the dangers of nuclear power, the issue has seeped through into the subsequent decades.
“It is more of an issue now than ever. There is a doomsday clock, it is set at how many minutes to midnight scientists think we are away from nuclear war. The clock has just moved to five minutes to midnight. It is pretty much as close as it has been.
“The great threat is that we are doing nothing to move to nuclear disarmament forward, there is a movement to make a nuclear-free Middle East and we should all be embracing it, especially a move towards more disarmament generally. It is a huge issue.”
The Tricycle Goes Nuclear festival will have a range of plays, films, talks, discussions, and exhibitions on offer until April 1.
Like the Afghanistan season, the plays tell a ‘partial history’ of nuclear bombs told in two performances;First Blast: Proliferation (five short plays) and Second Blast: Present Dangers (five short plays).
Nick said: “The first is dealing with non-nuclear proliferation and to rally development towards some form of disarmament, which has happened in the Ukraine and South Africa, and the second one is more about Iran and Korea. I think there are a lot of playwrights who are interested in contemporary issues. Some of those we have with us are of Korean heritage.”
The theatre was almost totally destroyed by a fire in 1987 but bounced back and within two years was re-built with improved facilities.
Nine years later, a cinema building was built alongside the theatre, showing a wide variety of British and international films which, like the plays, reflect the cultural diversity of the community.
Although this latest season promises to be diverse and engaging, there have been other highlights over the years.
The director, who lives in Maida Vale, north west London, said: “I suppose the thing we did the on the Stephen Laurence enquiry was one of the best. It was seen by a lot of people and went on to the National Theatre. Afghanistan, as well, we did a special performance for that at The Pentagon and we have had a lot of shows that have transferred to the West End.
“There have been a lot of good moments which has been terrific. I think that after the place burnt down and we managed to get it rebuilt was terrific as well.”
Other highlights in this festival include a cartoon exhibition with drawings from Peter Brookes, cartoonist at The Times and many time winner of the Cartoonist of the Year at the Press Awards, and Ralph Steadman who drew the images for Hunter S. Thompson’s Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas.
In the cinema there will be a number of films related to the issue including the classic Dr Strangelove or: How I Learned To Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb and the Emmy award-winning Day One.
The gallery will hold a series of photographs from former photojournalist Judy Goldhill who was granted access to the depths of nuclear power stations and photographed nuclear technology at work in health care.
Talks, stand-up and lectures include a classical concert, a night of comedy, a talk on how to split the atom and a debate on Trident led by Baroness Shirley Williams, who is the only British member of the board of the Nuclear Threat Institute in Washington DC.
The season is sponsored by The Kobler Trust with support from the National Theatre Studio and National Lottery funding through Arts Council England.
Indhu Rubasingham will be the new director of the Tricycle and was formally a member of the board.
She co-directed The Great Game: Afghanistan with Nick and has recently been enjoying success with directing the highly-acclaimed production Stones in his Pockets at the theatre.
Ahead of his departure from the theatre he has been chief since 1984, Nick said he leaves in good spirits.
“I have enjoyed working here enormously and it has been a wonderful adventure. I have enjoyed working in Brent and it has been very exciting.
“The people have been enormously supportive. We have 180,000 people come through these doors every en gard year.
“We have challenged people and made them think and I think people have appreciated that. They have a huge amount of affection for the theatre and I hope they will continue to come here.”
For more information on The Tricycle Goes Nuclear, see www.tricycle.co.uk.