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Robert Icke admits he walks out of shows ‘all the time’

Robert Icke accepting the Evening Standard award for best director in 2015. Photo: Dave Benett Robert Icke accepting the Evening Standard award for best director in 2015. Photo: Dave Benett
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Robert Icke has revealed he walks out of shows “all the time” and claimed the majority of theatre is boring.

The director – who has helmed acclaimed productions including Oresteia, 1984 and Uncle Vanya – also defended using microphones in his shows, and said actors should not project in large theatres.

In an interview with the Times, he said: “Certainly more evenings at the theatre are boring than not boring. Which is depressing. It would be nice to have it the other way round.”

He claimed most of his friends find theatre dull, adding: “And actually I suspect that, on average, you and I think that theatre is boring too.”

Icke added that he gets so impatient with many shows that he walks out at the interval “all the time”.

“Not in an aggressive way, but I let myself be honest about when I think it’s not going to be worth sitting through. It makes me annoyed,” he said.

Icke is an associate director at the Almeida Theatre in Islington, and will soon direct David Hare’s The Red Barn at the National Theatre.

He revealed that actors in his production in the 900-seat Lyttelton theatre, including Mark Strong, will be wearing microphones instead of projecting.

“I don’t know how you can not have microphones in a massive space like that [the Lyttelton]. We’re the last European nation not to do this. Doesn’t get in the way. Nobody notices,” he said.

He continued: “Naturalistic theatre acting has come to a level of focus and emotional commitment where it is no longer permissible to do the Gielgud boom. When I see actors screaming at each other I just want to leave.”

During the interview Icke also raised concerns about the rising price of theatre tickets and the accessibility of theatre to people who would not normally go.

He said: “The danger is that we only play to people who already know what theatre is, and that we become like a cryptic crossword, a game you have to know the rules to be able to play.”

Comparing theatre to popular TV shows, he continued: “And that’s not true of Stranger Things on Netflix, that’s not true of The Sopranos. Put anyone who has an attention span and a brain in front of that stuff and it will work on them. It’s like being bitten by a real dog, not a puppet dog.”

In April, Icke received the best director Olivier award for his work on Oresteia, which played at the Almeida Theatre before a limited West End run. He was also named best director for the same show at the Evening Standard Theatre Awards in 2015.

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