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Monday, 6 December, 1999, 17:30 GMT
Theatres 'in crisis' says report
The West End faces a future as "a tourist attraction"

The UK's theatres are facing "a crisis of confidence", with repertory productions in decline, according to a government appointed body.

Theatres Trust director Peter Longman said he feared new buildings put up with the help of National Lottery money could have no shows to put on within a decade.

Live professional theatre will consist of two-handers in pubs, American musical imports and pantos with ageing soap stars
Peter Longman, director, Theatres Trust
In the annual report of the trust - set up 24 years ago to protect theatres - he said the push to get more people involved in theatre means that the quality of shows is being overlooked.

"Government policy and the regional arts boards have concentrated on small-scale community-based activities, and have encouraged access to the exclusion of excellence," he said.

"I hope I will be proved wrong, but I have a dread that in 10 years from now we will find a crop of new lottery-funded theatres with nothing to put in them because local authorities cannot afford to run them."

Trust chairman John Drummond said that "the head count had taken over from matters of quality as a yardstick," adding that: "There is a growing tendency to believe that nothing has any value unless it reaches vast numbers of people."

The Lion King: US imports could dominate UK theatre, the report says
Mr Longman said the regional repertory system - the tradition training ground for actors and directors - had been "in slow decline in recent years".

He warned: "Outside a few major cities and those run by a handful of inspired individuals, we will have seen the slow death of the regional repertory system, branded as elitist and starved of cash and audiences.

"Live professional theatre will consist of microphoned arena opera, two-handers in pubs and community centres and American musical imports touring to a closely-controlled network of touring dates and pantos with ageing soap stars."

He predicted London's West End could be kept open simply as a tourist attraction, while theatres in other parts of the UK would only be preserved because of planning rules protecting them.

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