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Tuesday, 17 September, 2002, 10:38 GMT 11:38 UK
West End show Art to close
The League of Gentlemen
The League of Gentlemen will join the show
London stage comedy Art is to close after six years, producers have announced.

But they said the show would go out on a high, with comedy troupe The League Of Gentlemen taking Art's three roles before it closes on 4 January.

Producer David Pugh said it was difficult to find a high calibre cast to keep the show's momentum going.

With its cast changing roughly every 12 weeks, Art - written by Yasmina Reza - has been one of the West End's longest-running successes of recent years.

It first opened in October 1996, and since them has managed to defy the recession in the capital's theatreland.


Business has always been good but we're certainly not playing to the same audiences we had five years ago

Producer David Pugh
Stars of the show - about three men who fall out over the purchase of an all-white painting - have included Albert Finney, Art Malik, George Segal, Sir Tom Courtenay, Jamie Theakston, Jack Dee, and Goodness Gracious Me performer Sanjeev Bhasker.

One of the show's producers is actor Sean Connery, whose wife convinced him to back the play after seeing an early production.

The League of Gentlemen - Mark Gatiss, Steve Pemberton, and Reece Shearsmith - will join on 14 October.

They asked if they could be in the show two years ago - but only now has a date been set.

David Pugh said: "We had to wait until now to make their commitments and the cast changes fit.

"I'm an enormous fan of theirs and they were brilliant when they came to my office to do a read-through. It is going to be one of the best casts ever."

High-profile closures

Numerous high-profile shows have closed in London's West End in recent months.

Jamie Theakston
Jamie Theakston branched out into acting through Art
Long-running hits like Starlight Express and Cats have disappeared and the acclaimed, award-winning Kiss Me Kate saw its run cut short.

There has been a marked drop in audiences with a reduction in visitor numbers in the wake of the foot and mouth crisis. That was compounded by the September 11 attacks which put many potential US tourists off flying.

Mr Pugh acknowledged that falling audiences were a factor in his decision.

"This will be the 27th cast and we've always managed to keep the box office up by always having a name cast, but I got to a point whereby I couldn't maintain that calibre," he said.

"We could have continued for another year but I wanted to go out with it still as fresh as the first night.

"Business has always been good but we're certainly not playing to the same audiences we had five years ago."

See also:

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