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Editors' Blog: Theatre - the new rock'n'roll

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Ok, I know the headline's a bit hackneyed. But let's be honest, playwriting is the new songwriting, the National Theatre Studio is the new Abbey Road and Trey Parker and Matt Stone the new Johnny Rotten and Sid Vicious. Theatre IS the new rock 'n' roll.

Evidence for this hastily-crafted treatise is all around. Take bestselling novelist Mark Haddon's recent interview in the Evening Standard when he said he was turning his back on literature in favour of theatre. "The London theatre world is so much more alive than contemporary fiction," he said pointedly.

Of course, there's a crucial word there - London. Outside the bubble of the capital many venues are facing closure due unprecedented economic conditions and ongoing (and stupidly stubborn) government spending cuts, as evidenced by newly launched campaign My Theatre Matters, which I'd urge you to get involved in. However, little of the blame for this crisis can be attributed to the quality of work being produced, and much of the talent that gravitates to London has been nurtured in what is often patronisingly termed 'the regions'.

So let's focus on the positives for now. At The Book of Mormon recently I sat among a young, diverse and buzzing audience and witnessed a work of cutting edge satire that has already rattled a few conservative cages. It's refreshing to talk to my parents about a show in the same way I might once have discussed an alternative TV comedy series - the subtext being 'this belongs to my generation, not yours'.

I once bemoaned the fact that in terms of comedy, theatre could never rival the programmes produced in my youth - Brass Eye, I'm Alan Partridge, Father Ted, The Office, Peep Show (I too winced at the episode where Jez and Mark visit a fringe theatre and are bored to tears).

But now mainstream theatre is attracting a certain 'cool' factor thanks to figures such as Tim Minchin and Richard Bean, who both utilised skills honed on the stand up circuit (the former new rock 'n' roll) to craft two of the biggest West End hits of recent times (Matilda and One Man, Two Guvnors). And let's not forget that Father Ted scribe Graham Linehan has also crossed over from screen to stage, penning the highly successful Whatsonstage.com Award-winning adaptation of The Ladykillers.

And it's not just on the comedy and musicals front that theatre is now firmly keeping step with its digital media rivals. Speaking to Felix Barrett recently about Punchdrunk's mouth-watering new collaboration with the National Theatre, it struck me that here is a project generating levels of buzz that would have seemed inconceivable even ten years ago.

The idea that a production of Woyzeck in a warehouse (as we'll call it until the actual location is revealed) being one of the hottest cultural tickets in town is a slightly ridiculous one when viewed from a distance, but not when one considers the extent to which public tastes have changed.

Other examples abound: Latitude announced its 2013 line-up earlier this month, and who's top of the theatre bill? The non-venue based National Theatre Wales in a collaboration with hip hop producer Boom Bip and the king of cult cool himself, Daniel Kitson. The Theatre Tent looks likely to attract more hipsters this year than the music stages.

Too long has theatre been tarnished by labels like 'pretentious', 'stagey' and 'posh'. But now it seems to have finally been permitted entry to the kingdom of cool. Long may it reign.


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