Wednesday, 7 April 2010


One of my greatest pleasures is going to the theatre. "Oh no it isn't!" "Oh yes it is!" Yes, like most of my generation, it all started when I used to go to the pantomime. I used to go to the Saturday cinema club as well of course - and that was brilliant - but it didn't have that special magic that live theatre brings.

When I was a little older, we studied Shakespeare at school and our class went to Stratford-on-Avon to see 'King Lear'. I was entranced. It was one thing to read the rather dull book in lessons but quite another to see it brought to life on the stage by those brilliant actors. It became my favourite of all plays and I have now seen it several times, the last when I took my daughter to see the great Sir Ian McEllen's version. As we left the theatre, I remarked that I felt I never wanted to see 'Lear' again having just witnessed what I regarded as the definitive version.

My wife and I are lucky to have some excellent provincial theatres to choose from and have joined the Malvern Theatre as 'Bronze' members. As a senior citizen, this costs just half of the normal £35 and gives me £3 discount for our tickets plus priority booking for the best seats in the house. I regard this as a brilliant deal and we have enjoyed many superb productions there, several of which were on their way to the West End.

Imagine my sadness then, as I read that the future of theatre is in grave danger. Apparently, some 90% of audiences are over 50 years of age and there is a genuine worry about where future audiences will come from. I am lucky to receive such a good discount on my theatre membership but clearly many members of the audience are of an age where the cost of attending is prohibitive when living on a small pension and going out at night is more worrying than it used to be.

It seems to me that theatre lovers must make a real effort to sell it to the young if it is to survive. We may well be witnessing the beginning of the end of an entire art form.

So in the words of the great Noel Coward, "Don't put your daughter on the stage Mrs. Worthington"... but for heaven's sake take her to see a play so that she can discover what joy is to be had from live theatre.

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