Lloyd Webber Says West End Loses to SubsidisedDate: 4 February 2004
The West End can no longer compete with the subsidised sector, says theatre owner and impresario Andrew Lloyd Webber (pictured), who’s now calling on the government to redress the balance by offering tax breaks for young drama producers.
Speaking today in The Stage industry newspaper, Lloyd Webber said: “I don’t think people realise just how un-level the playing field is between subsidised and commercial – not un-level, it is almost a vertical drop.”
He continued: “A statistic that sums it all up – the entire profit of all four Shaftesbury Avenue playhouses from 1945 to the present day's less than the amount of money given to the Royal Court to refurbish.” The Sloane Square theatre reopened in 2000 after a four-year, £25 million overhaul. (See News, 16 Feb 2000)
The widening gap in terms of the quality and popularity of output is underlined by results to date in this year’s theatre awards. At the Evening Standard awards in November, all ten of the prizes were doled out to productions originated at heavily subsidised theatres and companies. And, of the winners announced yesterday in both the Critics’ Circle and Whatsonstage.com’s own public-voted Theatregoers’ Choice Awards, 75% hailed from the subsidised sector, with the National proving particularly triumphant.
Such disparity makes it increasingly difficult for producers to lure talent to West End projects when the likes of the Royal Court and National can offer more favourable contracts and facilities.
While Lloyd Webber has exempted big-budget musicals - like Mary Poppins, The Producers and, presumably, his own premiere of The Woman in White, which he’s co-producing with Sonia Friedman – he believes that plays would benefit from a change in theatre investment practice. He suggests that stage productions should be treated in the same way as films with attractive tax breaks for investors in British products.
The life peer tells The Stage that he will “beat the drum a wee bit” in the House of Lords in order to promote such changes in government policy.
- by Terri Paddock