Commercial theatre needs to reform itself, urges National’s Nick Starr

National Theatre executive director Nick Starr. Photo: Sara Lee
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Commercial theatre is operating in outmoded buildings and uses cost structures that do not respond to audiences, National Theatre executive director Nick Starr has claimed.

He recognised the sector’s increased audience numbers, but said that its profits were not being distributed fairly, and did not adequately benefit artists or theatregoers.

During a panel discussion at the NT on arts funding, Starr said: “The problem is that the commercial theatre is so unresponsive to the audience. They are coasting along in largely outdated buildings, with outdated cost structures and desperately unfair distribution of the profits among those who create the value.

“Increasingly, [the profit is] going towards banal trans­actional things like ticketing. If you look at the cost of going to the West End, it is largely from things which don’t add value to you and certainly are not going to the artists who created the work.”

Starr also accused the commercial theatre of having “entirely outsourced” its research and development work to the subsidised sector, which he described as an “an unusually vulnerable thing to do”.

He added: “The commercial theatre needs to reform itself.”