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Last Updated: Thursday, 24 June, 2004, 10:25 GMT 11:25 UK
West End shows 'need US actors'
Sir Peter Hall
Sir Peter Hall founded the Royal Shakespeare Company
West End producers are scared of staging new plays unless they have a major US star in the lead role, a leading theatre director has claimed.

Sir Peter Hall said plays, rather than musicals, were proving increasingly uneconomic for West End theatres.

But he denied the theatres were in terminal decline, saying early summer was traditionally a difficult time.

Fuddy Meers, The Shape of Things and Thoroughly Modern Millie are among the recent shows to have closed early.

Sir Peter told BBC Breakfast: "It's hard to make money in the West End unless you have a big plastic musical that runs forever... plays now are not very economic in the West End.

Acting 'muscle'

"There is a problem that most producers are now so frightened that they won't do a play unless they have a television star, preferably American, to pre-sell before they open."

But Sir Peter, who has himself lined up a big-name US actor for a production next year, said being a star did not necessarily mean they could perform on the stage.

"There are a lot of people we think of as stars in television who haven't been on the stage and don't know how to cut it, they just don't have the muscle," he added.

"There have been some American visitors who just haven't worked.

"Years ago I did The Merchant of Venice in London with Dustin Hoffman, but he started in the theatre and he had his muscles."

Sophisticated audience

Sir Peter, who founded the Royal Shakespeare Company, will return to the Theatre Royal in Bath this year with a package of plays for a summer residency.

His company's second annual repertory season, which runs from 30 June to 4 September, will include Man and Superman, by George Bernard Shaw and Timberlake Wertenbaker's new play Galileo's Daughter.

Sir Peter added: "Galileo's Daughter is a lovely play. It is always exciting to do a new play.

"The Bath audience is very sophisticated. It has a very strong and steady theatre policy."

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