Theatre News

David Hare states musicals are ‘strangling’ theatre

David Hare
David Hare
© Dan Wooller, 2016

Playwright David Hare has launched an attack on the world of musical theatre in a new column for The Spectator.

Reflecting on the opening of the Tony, WhatsOnStage and Evening Standard Award-winning production of Oklahoma!, currently playing at the Wyndham’s Theatre (which Hare labels “the most perfect playhouse in London for the spoken word”), Hare states that “musicals have become the leylandii of theatre, strangling everything in their path.”

Hare goes on to state that “it’s a crushing defeat to see Wyndham’s without a straight play.” The venue recently staged the award-winning Leopoldstadt by Tom Stoppard, followed by the multi-award-winning play Life of Pi.

In an anatomical turn of phrase, Hare ruminates: “Are dramatists not writing enough good plays which can attract 800 people a night? Will well-known actors not appear in them? Or did producers mislay their balls during lockdown?”

A few hundred metres from the Wyndham’s, new West End venue @sohoplace is presenting a new staging of Medea, starring Ben Daniels and Sophie Okonedo. Along Shaftesbury Avenue, To Kill a Mockingbird, For Black Boys Who Have Considered Suicide, The Unfriend and 2:22 A Ghost Story have all taken up residence.

In the opposite direction, three-hander The Lehman Trilogy continues to play at the Gillian Lynne Theatre.

Hare’s credits include Beat the Devil and Straight Line Crazy, both recently staged at the Bridge, as well as award-winning piece Skylight. The Bridge opened its five-star production of Guys and Dolls a few weeks ago.

Hare’s points have earnt some scorn, with composer Andrew Lloyd Webber noting in The Times: “David Hare is responsible for one of the greatest musical disasters in history…[Hare’s 1987 musical The Knife]. He is probably saying this because he mainly wants to bury his own contribution to musical theatre.”