The Crown offers a timely reminder of British theatre's 'soft power'

The hit Netflix series started life as a play and is packed full of stage talent

Josh O'Connor (Prince Charles) and Emma Corrin (Princess Diana) in The Crown
Josh O'Connor (Prince Charles) and Emma Corrin (Princess Diana) in The Crown
© Netflix

The Crown season 4 was released this week, offering a sumptuous glimpse behind the scenes of the stormy relationships between Charles and Diana, Andrew and Sarah and Elizabeth and Maggie.

But as well as proving an enduring hit for Netflix, the whole series also serves as a timely reminder of the creative power of British theatre. A show that started life at least partly on stage – creator Peter Morgan's play The Audience was its forerunner – it has theatre in its very DNA.

The cast's stage credits would fill a Spotlight directory by themselves. Whether it's Claire Foy or Josh O'Connor, it reads like a veritable Who's Who of British theatre talent. And that's before we've added Imelda Staunton, who will inherit the corgis from Olivia Colman in season 5.

It's a point that has been made many times before, but bears repeating, particularly now – our international screen success is forged on our stages. That global 'soft power' our politicians often brag about is due in large part to the efforts to theatre companies and drama schools up and down the country.

In normal times there is a quiet enjoyment to be had by pointing to someone on TV and saying 'I saw them on stage last year'. But at a time when so much of the theatre industry and those who work within it are fighting for survival, it feels necessary to shout this from the rooftops.

It was very heartening to see Netflix, which has boomed during lockdown, give something back by supporting The Theatre Artists Fund. They clearly recognise the debt they owe to the British stage, and fear for the loss of this vital talent pool.

Perhaps every episode of The Crown – and, for that matter, every piece of UK television drama you've watched in the past six months – should carry a note at the end of its credits: 'This series would not have been possible without the tireless efforts of British theatre'.

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