Oh, about the title change. It's possibly to do with clashing with the recent "Young, Gifted and Stagestruck" programme, but the choice of "Nations Best Am Dram" as a replacement instead...what a shame. There must have been a better alternative?
Apart from it being a mouthful (even The Only Way Is Essex can be rendered as
the far snappier TOWIE), and apart from the inevitable hashtag "nbad", which is basically the word "bad", the most disappointing thing about "Nations Best Am Dram" is the inclusion of the words "Am Dram" in the title.
"Am Dram" is, for the majority of the population, a pejorative, dismissive term that conjures up images of Mrs Overall in Acorn Antiques - only for real. It is a byword for shonky sets, murder victims making themselves comfortable when they're supposed to be dead, and a safe bet that the evening will include both a Garibaldi biscuit and a prompt or three, but, bless, they tried their best.
But, for all the groups who entered the competition, this sense of "am dram" is exactly the opposite of what they try to achieve. They are amateurs in the true Latin sense, of doing it for the love of it, rather than being paid for their efforts, and thus, although not professionals, and although limited in budgets, they all strive to produce as professional a performance as possible.
I guarantee you, not one amateur theatre company in the country, of whatever level, will willingly put the term "am dram" on their posters - beyond the license rights small print that typically reads "An amateur production in association with...".
Why? Because of the perception and reaction that "am dram" invokes. And here they all are, finalists in Sky Arts' competition to find the very best amateur theatre companies in the land - the "beating heart of theatre in Britain", and they're thinking, "Great, we can publicise our company as being featured on "Stagestruck" on Sky TV: that'll look good on the posters and should help with the declining ticket sales we've been suffering from for years"...only to find that, in order to use the positive aspect of being involved with a prestigious TV show, they have to slap the negative phrase "Am Dram" in great big bold type across everything they do.
Regent Rep had the show's title (with Sky's permission) on our poster for Pride and Prejudice, and as we flyered people, several people took one look at the proferred handbill and replied "Am Dram? No thanks"... One TV show on a subscriber station is not going to undo years and years of accumulated mental imagery around that term, and it does feel a little unsympathetic to use it.
What would I have suggested instead? Perhaps "Upstage, Downstage" if they were feeling nostalgic and tongue in cheek (it does after all, take a look at the real lives behind the painted facade - and would look quite good as a quote source on a poster); "All The World's A Stage" (hashtag: ATWAS) maybe? Or simply, "Merely Players"?
You might think they're crappy names, too. And you'd probably be right, I only thought them up as I typed this - but at least they're, to coin a phrase, "selling the sizzle and not the sausage": a bit less blunt about it. But hey. Que sera, sera.
Author: Gareth Richards