Theatre Outlook

Theatre Outlook

Theatre Outlook

Theatre Outlook

Excerpt

The text of this book was written and delivered to the publishers before the end of 1946. (The assembling of the photographs and charts, together with inevitable production difficulties, accounts for the delay in publication.) I have decided to leave the text as it stood, but it is necessary to add some comments, as certain things have happened in the Theatre during the last few months. First, the immediate post-war boom in the Theatre has given place, both in the West End and the provinces, to a slump. I doubt if theatres throughout the country are taking more than fifty per cent of what they were taking a year ago. Secondly, there has been some discussion (but not enough) of our theatrical conditions in the House of Commons, where Mr. Dalton vaguely promised a possible Working Party to examine these conditions. Thirdly, representatives of various groups of theatre workers and of various theatrical interests have been meeting to organise a large National Conference of the Theatre, which is due to take place in London in November. It is to be hoped that this Conference will agree that certain reforms are urgently necessary, and will press for immediate action.

The present economics of the Theatre are ruinous and insane. At a time when our audiences are developing a taste for good drama, and clearly need all the inspiration or solace that good drama can give them, there is nobody seriously engaged in theatrical production who is not beginning to feel baffled, frustrated, helpless. (The fact that a few "smash hits" still more than pay their way does not affect the argument. Aiming at a rapidly dwindling bull's-eye should not be the primary task of the serious theatrical producer.) If, like the Russians, we had large theatres filled to capacity at every performance, perhaps we could pay our way at present theatre prices. But many of our theatres, especially in the West End, are quite small, and throughout the country our patrons like to stay away on Monday (even if they have to stand or be turned away on Saturday night), and will allow sunshine, fog or sleet, or some national crisis to cancel their theatre-going. Again, although, as I have pointed out in my text, theatre seats are comparatively cheap, not having kept pace with other prices, the public is unwilling to pay more at our box . . .

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