The last few weeks have seen a few people ringing the death knell of theatre. Dom Joly referred to theatre as “Hell” and Charles Saatchi called it “Clapped Out”. I’m not so sure I agree.
Admittedly going to the theatre for me is as necessary as breathing, I can understand there are those who like Mr Joly would rather use their free time doing something else and that’s fine with me. Making TV shows with unsuspecting members of the public is not my cup of tea personally. However “Clapped out?” Hardly, we’re in the middle of a vibrant and exciting time theatrically I’d say.
Theatreland truly has something to offer everyone. From the musical romance of the long running Phantom of the Opera, the family friendly Shrek, the spine tingling Woman in Black or the disturbing and sick Philip Ridley play Mercury Fur which has just finished a run at the Trafalgar Studios. There really is something for every taste and mood. I had a great time at The Sunshine Boys the other night, the perfect antidote to a hard work at week. A week earlier, I’d been engrossed in the plays South Downs / The Browning Version, neither of which are light comedies, but gave me much to think about the touched me emotionally in a way I was not expecting.
The Society of London’s own figures for the first quarter of 2012 also seem to refute the naysayers. Audiences up by 11% and box office income up by 13%. The other weekend West End Live ran for its 7th year. Thousands gathered for the free events in Trafalgar Square over the weekend. When it originally launched four shows took part, this year every West End musical took part.
I know many bemoan the fact there are a plethora of naff musicals on, but the buzz Viva Forever! caused this week I think shows how keen people are for a feel good night out, and why shouldn’t theatre provide that? In the current climate, anything that provides a lift to people’s soul’s is a good thing. (Plus the creative team of Judy Crammer and Jennifer Saunders should ensure this is a fab show).
Shows that have not even opened are selling out fast and not just the aforementioned jukebox musicals. Michael Grandage’s new season of 5 plays at the Noel Coward Theatre is selling out fast, due in part to its star casting of Simon Russell Beale, Sheridan Smith, Ben Wishaw, Judi Dench, David Walliams, Daniel Radcliffe and Jude Law. The £10 tickets at each show are also a positive step to make theatre affordable.
Let’s not forget that Lord Lloyd Webber has just taken to our screens to find Jesus for his revival of Jesus Christ Superstar, soon aswell. Tickets are already on sale and an additional date has been added to the O2 as the first one sold out, this is all prior to the leading man even being chosen! Mel C and Tim Minchin being cast has been a positive piece of casting which I’m sure has helped to shift a good deal of the tickets.
So I’d counter those negative voices. Clapped out? Hardly it’s kicking and screaming. Hell? to some of us Mr Joly it’s heavenly.