West End Remains Popular

19th April 2010 by Maura McHugh

According to the Hollywood Reporter theatre is still proving very popular in the UK despite the recession, and the latest figures reveal that attendance at the West End in London hit 14 million last year and box office revenue made a record £500 million.

The current success owes to several factors, not least of which is a high standard of excellence. Critics have joined the public in being generally bowled over by the range and quality of what has been presented of late.

Two more reasons for the growing appreciation of what’s onstage: The lackluster state of British film and television means local talent is gravitating to the theater; and the development of well-trained directors.

Says Almeida artistic director Michael Attenborough: “TV in the U.S. is infinitely stronger. Most U.K. sitcoms are pathetically vulgar and crude.”

Meanwhile, the current crop of top stage directors is among the most innovative and distinctive to date, with Rupert Goold (“Enron”), Michael Grandage (“Hamlet,” “Red”), Howard Davies (“All My Sons”), Christopher Morahan (“The Caretaker”), Ian Rickson (“Jerusalem”) and Nicholas Hytner (“London Assurance,” “The Habit of Art”) following in the footsteps of Sam Mendes, Richard Eyre, Stephen Daldry and Trevor Nunn.

Says Burns simply, “We train great directors.” It shows.

Burns, who runs Nimax Theatres with U.S. producer Max Weitzenhoffer, adds: “Not only are more people coming, they’re paying more money to see the plays and musicals. Last year, it was a coincidence that so many plays came to fruition in one performing year. It was very much the year of the play. But that doesn’t mean the musicals were struggling — it means the plays did better.”

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