LINCOLN ROAD: The Telegraph
OK, let's have this one out. Amid all the hoo-ha about pending arts funding cuts is anyone flying the flag for regional arts? Is there even the remotest suggestion that the new settlement might help rectify the chronic imbalance that exists in the amount of subsidy the arts enjoy in the capital compared to outside it? I've heard nothing that raises hopes that a different set of priorities are going to be brought into play.
While there's been much banging on of late about the hardship of those in the inner cities, there's no mention of other sorts of deprivation in outlying areas. If you're lucky enough to live in the London borough of Southwark, for example, there are half a dozen major theatres on your doorstep. If you live in Peterborough, there are precisely none.
Apart from the Key theatre, which acts as a small receiving house, and has a go at panto and community work, it's essentially a wasteland. That's not so remarkable when you consider a national picture of patchy-to-poor coverage but it's altogether shocking when you look at the huge demographic changes Peterborough, along with other parts of East Anglia, is experiencing. Over 100 languages are now spoken in the city. An estimated one in ten of the population comes from Eastern Europe.
Why should theatre provision matter so much? Because social cohesion matters. Peterborough hit the headlines in 2004 when street clashes erupted between residents and asylum seekers, and violence marred a subsequent summer festival aimed at celebrating the city's diversity. Against this backdrop, Eastern Angles has done the city a small but essential favour in touring Lincoln Road, a play by Danusia Iwaszko that draws on wide-ranging interviews with locals and indirectly alludes to those events by telling the story of an ethnically disparate action-group who gamely battle to get a community carnival off the ground, against the odds.
I caught it during its stop-off at Peterborough volunteer fire-station, which made for a surprisingly cosy port of call. Yes, it's a well-meaning show - with an accent on comedy rather than the uglier side of race relations - but the issues of identity and belonging are pithily addressed and it's as tightly directed by Naomi Jones as it is charmingly performed by a cast of four (Djalenga Scott, Theo Devaney, Jason Deer and Naveed Khan).
Better than nothing? A good deal better than that - but we need a lot more where this came from.