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Max Foster reports
"Look after the National and you look after theatreland as a whole."
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Monday, 23 October, 2000, 11:27 GMT 12:27 UK
National Theatre's poor performance
The National Theatre, South Bank, London
The National Theatre: Under critical review
The National Theatre is this week set to announce its first overall loss since the mid 1980s. It has been hit by delayed productions and some bad reviews. Now there is concern in the West End of the knock-on effect on its thriving theatre scene. The BBC's Max Foster reports.

London has always been famous for its West End theatres.

Recently sales have been given a boost thanks to some big name stars - casting celebrities in West End plays is all the rage and it is certainly helping to pull in big audiences.

Frances De La Tour, currently staring in Noel Coward's play 'Fallen Angels' at the Apollo theatre, is upbeat about the capital's theatre scene.

Frances De La Tour, Actress
Frances de la Tour: Warm welcome for stars
"It has been through some very dippy times in the 80s and early 90s. It seems to have a nice atmosphere and lots of people want to be here," she said.

National losses

But across the river at the National Theatre the feeling is not as upbeat.

The National receives subsidies of more than 1m a month, yet it is about to report its first loss since the mid 1980s.

It is only a slight loss, at 160,000, but that is being seen as a worrying overspend.

If the National Theatre is doing well, then everyone perceives that London theatre is doing well - so many would prefer that it was successful.

It's not there to make a huge profit and indeed should not make a huge profit

Paul James
The Society of London Theatre

Defenders of the National say, loss or no loss, its contribution to the West End cannot be added up.

"It's not like any other business," says Paul James from the Society of London Theatre.

"It's not there to make a huge profit and, indeed, should not make a huge profit.

"It's there to be a vibrant, living, national institution, which it is, and to create vibrant new theatre, some of which comes into the commercial sector and makes Britain a lot of money."

The Royal Shakespeare Company is also heavily subsidised and also losing money.

The Arts Council have sent in a team of experts to help stem the losses and some say the same should be done at the National.

Look after the National, they say, and you look after theatre-land as a whole.

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