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Friday, 2 March, 2001, 08:39 GMT
Eyre calls for cheaper theatre
Richard Eyre
Eyre has criticised the Arts Council for "lack of strategic thinking"
Former director of the National Theatre Sir Richard Eyre has called for subsidies to be used to cut the cost of going to the theatre.

At a conference for the UK theatre industry, Sir Richard criticised ticket prices for both commercial and subsidised theatre.

"Especially when they can buy a hard back book for half the price or a cinema ticket for one third of the price," he added.

"It just doesn't wash with the public, it makes us look ridiculous.

Broadcaster Melvyn Bragg
Bragg: "Theatre is enlightenment and elevation but also a 1bn industry"
"And that ridicule can turn to contempt when they're expected to pay 3 for a coke that cost the theatre management 12p."

He said that funding must go into making ticket prices lower and called for the theatre community to stop moaning about the fact that people can afford money for expensive shoes but not a play.

Last month the Queen's Theatre slashed its ticket prices to under-25s in an attempt to get them into its production of Medea.

Sir Richard also talked about the need to update theatre buildings and make them accessible.

The Theatre 2001 conference heard a rousing call to shake off funding fears and put audiences and creative risk back at the top of the agenda.

Richard Eyre was right in saying that subsidised theatre should be about doing things that commercial theatre will not do

Jatinder Verma, Tara Arts
Leading figures from the UK industry had gathered in advance of an announcement on how the government will spend 25m earmarked for the stage.

"It's a good time for theatre," said broadcaster Melvyn Bragg.

"Everybody knew about theatre's struggle in the 80s, and how people held on for a new dawn in 1997 and were disappointed.

"But with this money from the state, under-funding need no longer rule the agenda."

The Arts Council won the extra 25m from the Treasury on the basis that the theatre industry was on the verge of collapse.


One delegate said: "For the last ten or 15 years theatre, especially regional theatre, has been frozen in the headlight of cuts, but now theatre is at a crossroads.

"Now there's a chance to think about something other than whether we will exist."

Terry Braun, a film director and now consultant on the arts and new technology, discussed bringing theatre to the internet.

Kathleen Turner played Mrs Robinson in London's The Graduate
The conference was told Hollywood actors, like Kathleen Turner, on stage is not a threat
He told the audience about his projects with the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, creating a web site for their forthcoming performance of Stravinsky's Firebird.

The site, which will go online in late March, will allow users to mix a recording of the orchestra, adding for example more viola or less flute as they wish.

There will be links to audio interviews with musicians and plans for a surround camera view of rehearsals with the orchestra, live on the web.

Asked whether he could foresee a time when theatre could leave the stage and take to the web completely, Braun said: "This is an art form in itself, different to what's on stage but growing from the relationships that grew on the stage."

Ian Rickson of the Royal Court
"You can't just cut ticket prices - you have to have very proactive schemes"
See also:

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