The Toone puppet theater may have to close in September 2016 – the year of its 50th anniversary in the îlot sacré – if no solution is found to fill the gap left by a 5% cut in the subvention it will get from the Brussels- Wallonia Federation in 2016. This subvention could disappear completely in 2017.
This decision was taken by Culture minister Joëlle Milquet in July 2015, on the advice of the Dramatic Arts Council. To justify it, they have ruled the Toone theatre does not come under culture, but tourism or heritage. This is according to José Géal, Toone VII. The 211,000 euro subvention will fall by 5% in 2016, and disappear completely in 2017. The subvention should keep it going until September 2016, “as they will have to pay severance pay to those that work” at the theatre.
“The minister has been saying we will have to meet for two years”, says José Géal, who adds he has tried unsuccessfully to arrange a meeting. His contacts within the Brussels administration have also not been able to help.
A Theater administration council meeting will take place on the 18th of March. “This meeting will allow us to discuss which contracts to end”, says the Council president, Yvan Vandermeersch.
The Toone Royal theater has existed since 1830, and is the only traditional Brussels puppet theatre still going. Its repertoire includes 35 plays, including works Michel de Ghelderode wrote for puppets. José Géal’s son, Nicolas (Toone VIII) now runs the theatre.