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An Inspector Calls producer Peter Wilson: ‘Musicals are squeezing out plays in the West End’

Liam Brennan and the cast of An Inspector Calls at the Playhouse Theatre, London. Photo: Mark Douet Liam Brennan and the cast of An Inspector Calls at the Playhouse Theatre, London. Photo: Mark Douet
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An Inspector Calls producer Peter Wilson has claimed musicals are hogging West End playhouses and will “squeeze out” straight drama if left unchecked.

Wilson, who also produces The Woman in Black, said there needed to be a greater variety of West End theatres in different shapes and sizes to combat the problem.

Wilson has been chief executive of Norwich Theatre Royal for 25 years, but will step down later in December to focus on his company PW Productions, which is behind both The Woman in Black and An Inspector Calls.

It was revealed in April that PW had been chosen to run the Arts Theatre in Covent Garden after a major refurbishment, to make it a home for “good plays”.

The venue will become one of very few theatres in the West End with a capacity smaller than 600 seats.

In an interview with The Stage, Wilson was asked if the West End needed a greater variety of theatre sizes. He responded: “Yes we do. And the reason is that the big theatres, progressively the smaller big theatres, are being used for musicals more.”

Giving examples, he continued: “Gypsy going in to the Savoy, and Funny Girl… the 800 and 900-seat theatres are being used for musicals, and drama will be squeezed out.”

Wilson has previously told The Stage he wants to use the Arts Theatre to import mid-scale “high-quality drama” from the Almeida, the National Theatre’s Dorfman and the Royal Shakespeare Company.

PW was due to begin operations at the Arts Theatre in 2018, but the producer admitted this had “slipped a bit”, and revealed 2019 was “more likely”.

Explaining that they were waiting on the developer to get planning permission, he said: “I’m quite relaxed about this. We’ve spent the money, we’ve done the designs, we can now lie doggo waiting for the green light from the other side.”

Wilson also said that since he first staged An Inspector Calls in 1993, productions were “more ambitious” and ticket prices were “much, much, much higher”.

His departure from the Theatre Royal comes as the venue has announced an annual surplus of £572,410 – more than twice as high as the previous year.

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