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Last Updated: Friday, 16 February 2007, 12:34 GMT
Mirren pleads for theatre funding
Director Stephen Frears and Helen Mirren
Stephen Frears and Helen Mirren worked together on The Queen
Four British Oscar nominees have urged the UK government not to cut funding for live theatre.

Dame Judi Dench, Dame Helen Mirren, director Stephen Frears and writer Patrick Marber said British theatre had been crucial to their success.

"The British subsidised theatre is admired and envied throughout the world," Dame Helen said in a National Theatre statement.

Some fear arts funding will be cut to help finance the London 2012 Olympics.

"I'm sure it won't be long before I'm back on the stage," added Mirren, who is tipped to win best actress at the Oscars for her role in Frears' film The Queen.

Dame Judi Dench
The health of our film industry depends on the health of our theatre
Dame Judi Dench
In the next few months, the government is expected to announce arts funding for the three years beginning in 2008.

Nicholas Hytner, director of the National Theatre - the country's largest subsidised theatre - said arts organisations had been "told to expect nothing much".

Arts companies were not asking for an increase, but "it would be the most tremendous mistake if funding was cut in real terms", he said.

Stephen Frears, nominated for the best director Oscar for The Queen, credited the Royal Court Theatre and the BBC with kick-starting his career.

"Many of us have benefited from the wise decision of the government to support the arts properly," he said. "Why on earth would anybody change that policy when it's paid off so handsomely?"

Dame Judi, nominated for best actress for Notes On A Scandal, said: "The health of our film industry depends on the health of our theatre."

Arts 'transformed'

Hytner praised the Labour government for reinvigorating the arts scene with increased funding when they came into power in 1997.

"What the government has done over 10 years has had the most tremendously beneficial effect," he said.

"The performing arts scene has been transformed over the last 10 years."

Marber, who is nominated for best adapted screenplay for Notes on a Scandal, said it would be a huge blow "if reduced funding forced theatres to take fewer risks and to deny writers the chance to develop and find their voice".

Dame Helen began her career at the National Youth Theatre, Dame Judi worked for many years at the Royal Shakespeare Company and Marber honed his craft at the National Theatre.


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