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Dominic Cooke: ‘Liberal intelligentsia are snobs about musicals’

Dominic Cooke. Photo: Manuel Harlan

Theatre fans who identify as liberal can be “incredibly elitist” in their attitude towards musical theatre, director Dominic Cooke has claimed.

Cooke said he detests theatre which plays to a small, select audience, and applauded musical theatre for bringing “dark and interesting subject matters” to the wider public.

Speaking at the National Theatre at a platform on Follies, which he directs, Cooke said: “I especially object to the snobbery about musical theatre.

“Britain is so riddled by snobbery in so many forms, and often the worst snobs are the ones who think they’re not snobs. The liberal intelligentsia have very subtle forms of snobbery, and they imagine that they are outside the world of snobbery, but actually they’re very much inside a different form of snobbery, and their snobbery is that things that are popular are bad.”

Cooke added that the people who think of themselves as politically correct often exhibit an “awful elitism”, which he said the industry must “get rid of”.

“We all know that some of the greatest pieces of work in the 20th century in theatre, are musical theatre,” he said.

“The fact the shows are written to reach a wider public is a wonderful thing to do, to take different areas of human experience to a very wide public. I detest that awful kind of coterie theatre that is about playing to a small room of people who are like you.”

Cooke also said that he would like to commission and develop work again in the future by running his own theatre company, however the former Royal Court artistic director said he had no desire to run a building again.