Great Britain has a broad range of theatre companies: (1) university theatre companies such as those at Birmingham and Wolverhampton; (2) touring troupes, which are privately financed and in need of a minimum audience guarantee in order to book a particular theatre; (3) professional acting companies at London's fringe theatres; (4) national companies such as the Abbey Theatre Company, the English Stage Company at the Royal Court Theatre, the National Theatre Company, and the Royal Shakespeare Company; (5) and regional companies of varying merit. The Bristol Old Vic, senior member of the four premiere provincial theatre companies of Great Britain, pioneered the revival of regional theatres. Along with the Birmingham Repertory Theatre Company, Glasgow's Citizens' Theatre, and Manchester's Royal Exchange Theatre Company, it provides an exceptionally high caliber of theatrical production.
During the 1970s rapid inflation, decreasing opportunities for theatre personnel, and a lack of new and innovative materials with which to work brought major changes in Great Britain's theatre. The importance of London's West End as a theatre center has decreased as the quality of productions has increased at London's fringe and the nation's provincial theatres. Relatively new companies with outstanding casts have premiered award-winning plays. The national companies have developed relationships with theatres outside London: the National Theatre Company with the Theatre Royal in Edinburgh and the Royal Shakespeare Company with Newcastle. Tight money has forced the repertory companies to consider more one-set and small-cast plays, smaller orchestras, and fewer touring productions. Large-scale touring musicals have become rare. As expensive renovation of theatres designed to accompany touring companies decreased, touring productions themselves increased and presented more regional dramas. Precariously poised between boom and bankruptcy, London's fringe theatres have expanded the possibilities for producing imaginative and original playscripts.
The National Theatre Company's impressive theatre complex on the South