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Former EIF director bemoans British theatre lagging behind the continent – 20 years ago in The Stage

From The Stage, April 29, 1999
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In the April 29 edition of The Stage, we reported on former Edinburgh International Festival director John Drummond launching an attack on British theatre as “dangerously jingoistic and inward-looking”.

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Speaking at the annual awards dinner of the Association of British Theatre Technicians, Drummond – also a former BBC Radio 3 controller – was especially critical of drama schools, claiming they were focusing too much on film and television at the expense of stage training. He said: “They are playing minor roles in The Bill, but they are unable to be kings, queens; and emperors on stage. You go to the recent production of Macbeth, and it was sad to see that they cannot embody these roles.”

Drummond claimed British productions were lagging behind the “total theatre” of the continent, in which fabulous sets, costumes and effects add to the overall experience. He said the lack of non-British directors working in the United Kingdom was adding to the problem, and bemoaned the fact London did not have an international drama festival.

He added: “English theatre is based on the word. We don’t care what it looks like. We do radio drama in public. Audiences are not going to be kept by a box in which two people talk about their sex lives. It is really quite pathetic what we do.”

If you’d like to read more stories from the history of theatre, all previous content from The Stage is available at the British Newspaper Archive in a convenient, easy-to-access format. Please visit: thestage.co.uk/archive

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