Why Matthew Warchus Is Wrong

Matilda The Musical garnered a whole bunch of Olivier awards at yesterday’s ceremony, giving those involved plenty of platform space to air their views, many of which I agree with, but director Matthew Warchus’s much Tweeted statement that “schools should prioritise creative imagination over mathematics” is simplistic and just plain wrong.

Theatre needs mathematicians just as much as it needs the creative imagination of directors, designers, composers and performers. In fact, I’d go so far as to say that without mathematicians, most of the spectacular and technically complex shows in the West-End and on Broadway wouldn’t exist. There’d be no flying cars or flying nannys, no beautifully designed projections, no balletic movement of trucked and flown scenery, no sophisticated multi-channel surround sound, no wireless microphones and no ‘intelligent’ lights.

Fit-ups would be a matter of inspired guesswork, balconies would collapse under their Juliets as there’d be no-one to work out the correct weight-loading and, more significantly, box-office returns and royalty payment calculations would be even more arcane than they already are.

What theatre needs is not this ridiculous “my discipline is better than your discipline” argument, but an education system that recognises and then encourages talent in all areas that are relevant to what we do. Promoting creative aspects of an education system over the so-called ‘hard’ subjects is divisive and risks socially ghetto-ising those whose talents lie in that direction.

“What do you do?” “I am a theatre director.” “Oh, how wonderful and creative!”

“And what do you do?” “I am a mathematician.” “Oh, how dreary and dull.”

Without mathematicians, I wouldn’t be able to do the job that I do, so I respect and admire their achievements, which can be just as creative as anything the mind of Mr. Warchus can come up with.