Last week London’s West End reported an attendance of over 14 million in 2010, missing last year’s record by a whisker. A BBC report desribed a ‘golden age of theatre’.
So why are we living in this golden age? Partly it’s the quality. If you provide cheap production values and lazy content, audiences stay home. By contrast, last year’s West End’s hits are challenging plays and intelligent musicals. But the main reason is, I think, to do with it being live. We’re all aware nowadays of how packaged and mass produced so much of what we consume is, including entertainment. Consequently, there’s an appetite for things that are or appear to be authentic.
At one end of the spectrum, you see it in the popularity of ‘reality’ TV shows and a desire to see behind the celebrity masks. Elsewhere it’s the trend towards naturally produced food or, as I see in my shop Your Life Your Style, the demand for handmade products like Steiff bears and Dartington Glass. A theatrical performance, where we join a live audience to share in the real emotion communicated by actual people, is the organic wholemeal loaf of entertainment.
Whatever the reason for this golden age, it may soon be over. Cuts to arts funding are threatening many great producing theatres, local and national. So, enjoy it while you can.
This post also appeared on Blogger and in an extended version on the Daily Echo website
Paul Lewis owns the shop and online retailer Your Life Your Style