In the Guardian on Saturday, the playwright David Hare wrote about his ideal theatre. https://www.theguardian.com/stage/2017/dec/30/david-hare-my-ideal-theatre . I’m not sure I agree with all his proposals. Why shouldn’t a new theatre be in central London? There are already a number of theatres in the suburbs, Hammersmith Lyric for one, but they struggle to draw the audiences for untested plays. There is an excitement about going to the theatre that is enhanced by being in the centre of a theatre-going culture. Coming out into the street after a great performance along with many other theatregoers is exhilarating.
Does size matter? I don’t think so. Some productions work well on a small stage, others need a large stage and auditorium. Do a younger audience want to be close up to the action? Certainly, the live transmissions of opera would suggest that does change the experience whether it would change the audience and attract younger people I don’t know. My experience in a provincial town suggests not. It is the older generation that goes to these transmissions whether the opera or the theatre. What does attract a younger audience is an actor they know from television eg Benedict Cumberbatch’s Hamlet.
I too would like to see new plays although I enjoy new productions of the classics when they speak to today’s world as they so often do. In fact when it comes to policy while I agree the state should be a patron of the arts, is there not a danger that playwrights would then pander to the whims of politicians, something from which even Shakespeare was not immune. Is it wrong that the National Theatre should produce musicals? There have been some wonderful productions by great directors giving a new life to that genre. David Hare seems to reject the idea of a theatre that is commercial as well as subsidised. What about a play like ‘War Horse?
I think his approach is too purist and would simply create a theatre for an elite instead of entertainment for all.
I love the live theatre. Nothing compares with the buzz generated by great actors playing great parts on the London stages. I first went to a theatre when I was sixteen, taken by my school to see Macbeth after the Scottish play had been the subject of our ‘O’ level exams, but it is not that I remember. The play that gave me my love of theatre was the RSC’s production in 1961 of ‘The Devils’ starring Dorothy Tutin and Richard Johnson. I can still picture the scene where Sister Jeanne (played by Tutin) kneels at the feet of the priest Father Grandier (Richard Johnson) after he has seduced her.
I would love to see a theatre in every city and the main companies do more on tour. I saw that production of ‘The Devils’ in Manchester. Again on a school trip. That’s something governments should support.
My ideal theatre would be more practical. More comfortable seating and good sightlines where ever you sit. Theatres that don’t use ‘airline’ type pricing or use ticketing agencies that add such high fees for booking with them. Decent wine and light snacks both before and during the interval. And finally more ladies loos.