The Bright Lights Have Left the West End. Cameron Mackintosh Hopes to Bring Them Back. (Notebook)
Millard, Rosie, New Statesman (1996)
Theatre, once seen as so outrageous that it was banned from the City, is now so crucial that London's streets are specially cleaned up for it. Westminster City Council, which looks after the West End, is buzzing with the concept of the "theatre standard". Cleaning to "theatre standard" means washing the streets before curtain up, and again just before curtain down. It's all rather touching. After the interval, as you curse the latecomer who forces you to stand up as the second half begins, be mollified by the thought that people are emptying the bins and washing pavements along Shaftesbury Avenue. Just for you, the audience.
The energetic council admits to being inspired by Rudi Giuliani's zerotolerance policy on Broadway, and is visiting it with a vengeance on Theatreland. No peeing up against walls, no loitering by cashpoints. For three years, the Tory councillor for Soho went out every other Saturday night and made a sort of scatological home video, recording the vomiting, the micturation and the booze-related violence. He's called it The Gradual Death of Self-Respect. I suspect it won't turn up at your local Blockbuster, although it might appear as a series on BB C4. Westminster has used it as evidence to support a new raft of fines for bad behaviour, and to boost its cleaning budget to [pounds sterling]32m, so that the bins can be emptied four times a day, rather than twice, and the streets washed with bulletin-like regularity.
This was all announced alongside Cameron Mackintosh's plan to spend [pounds sterling]35m (a bit more than Westminster's annual cleaning budget) on rebuilding his septet of West End playhouses. Plus, he's going to build a new one -- the Sondheim, a small studio theatre -- right in the middle of Shaftesbury Avenue. …