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Friday, 26 October, 2001, 10:54 GMT 11:54 UK
Blair boosts West End
Tony and Cherie Blair
The Blairs found time in their busy schedules for night out
UK Prime Minister Tony Blair went to a West End show on Thursday night in an attempt to boost the fortunes of London's theatreland, struggling amid a tourism slump.

He and Cherie went to the Albery Theatre to see a production of Noel Coward's Private Lives, starring Alan Rickman and Lindsay Duncan.

London Mayor Ken Livingstone has urged visitors to head back to the West End after a severe drop off in tourism in the wake of the 11 September attacks.

Alan Rickman and Lindsay Duncan
Private Lives stars Alan Rickman and Lindsay Duncan

Mr Blair sat through the comedy before heading off to dinner at a nearby restaurant with friends.

West End musicals have been the worst hit with revenue for some shows down as much as 15% on last year's figures, according to the Society of London Theatre.

Early casualties have been the closure of Notre Dame de Paris and Peggy Sue Got Married, although it is unclear whether these were as a direct result of the attacks.

Slump

One of the main problems has been the downturn in the amount of visitors flying from North America.

The slump is indicated by the 45% drop in hotel bookings in the capital booked by Americans.

There were fears that massive wage cuts would have to be implemented for actors and production staff to stave off more closures, as has happened in the US.

But as yet this drastic measure has not materialised in the UK.

Cats
Musicals have been the worst hit in the West End
But it is not all doom and gloom as the Ambassadors Theatre Group (ATG) has reported a 3% rise in the number of bookings for its West End theatres.

The company owns nine venues in London, including the Albery and the Donmar Warehouse.

Success

Its 12 regional theatres have fared even better, reporting rises of 12%.

ATG managing director Howard Panter said: "People are not staying away from the theatre - attendance figures are up and shows like Private Lives in our Albery Theatre are playing to record houses.

"We've had incredible success with shows such as Noises Off and Stones in His Pockets and productions like A Day in the Death of Joe Egg and The Homecoming show that freshness and quality will continue to attract theatregoers whatever the economic climate or the state of world politics.

"In fact, it illustrates how in times of uncertainty people do turn to entertainment for escape."

See also:

21 Sep 01 | Americas
Tourism shaken to the core
24 Sep 01 | Showbiz
Reprieve for Kiss Me Kate
22 Oct 01 | Showbiz
West End still drawing crowds
27 Sep 01 | Arts
West End fears downturn
27 Sep 01 | Showbiz
Broadway box office receipts rise
25 Sep 01 | Showbiz
Broadway begins fight back
18 Sep 01 | Showbiz
Cash aid for struggling Broadway
18 Sep 01 | Arts
Broadway shows signal closure
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