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Number of productions at subsidised theatres rises despite cuts

New research by the BBC has revealed that the output of the biggest 20 venues has increased in the past five years

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A scene from the Young Vic's 2014 production of A View from the Bridge
© Jan Versweyveld

Despite fears about the impact of funding cuts, new research by the BBC reveals that more shows were staged by subsidised theatre companies last year compared with five years earlier.

The BBC analysed the output of 62 of the UK's "most-subsidised venues", and found they staged a total of 395 full professional productions and co-productions in 2014, compared with 361 in 2009.

Of these, the 20 best-funded theatres - including the National Theatre and Royal Shakespeare Company - put on 200 plays and musicals in 2014, compared with 163 in 2009 - a rise of 23 percent.

The research comes in the wake of last week's report by the British Theatre Consortium which showed that over half of productions at major UK theatre now constitute new work as opposed to revivals.

The BBC also analysed diversity among actors, directors and writers. It found that male actors took 57 percent of all roles in 2014, while men accounted for "more than six in ten writers and directors", a figure which has "evened up a little" since 2009.

'More resourceful'

Productions such as War Horse have boosted the National's income
© Brinkhoff/Mögenburg

The research also revealed a growing gap between the most-subsidised venues and the rest, showing that the National Theatre, which gets the most subsidy, has also enjoyed the biggest boost from commercial transfers of its hit productions such as War Horse and The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time.

Production numbers at the 42 lesser-funded theatre companies analysed, including the likes of the Headlong and Paines Plough, dipped slightly from 198 in 2009 to 195 in 2014.

Rachel Tackley, president of UK Theatre and director of English Touring Theatre, said: "The bigger houses are definitely becoming more resourceful and doing more co-productions.

"The easy thing would be to do less. The money gets less, we do less. Actually I think the opposite has been proven to be the case. As the money gets tighter and we're more squeezed, then we get more and more resourceful. My worry is to what extent you can continue that."

But actors' union Equity counters that the research does not indicate that venues are not being hit by cuts, highlighting that the number of weeks that actors had worked at many of the top venues has dropped since 2009.

Assistant general secretary Martin Brown responded: "We don't think that more titles being done by these 20 theatres can be read to be a sign of the theatres not being impacted by funding cuts, especially when you look at the collapse in employment in most of those theatres."