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Front Row presenters’ comments provoke outcry from theatre sector

Industry figures have slammed the “outrageous” comments made by the new BBC Front Row presenting team, who said they found the theatre stressful and resented going to long shows.

Giles Coren, Nikki Bedi and Amol Rajan were announced as the presenters [1] of a new television version of BBC Radio 4’s arts programme Front Row last month.

They have since sparked an outcry after displaying a lack of enthusiasm for theatre in a Radio Times interview, with Coren claiming that it would have to be “such a good production” for “everyone to suspend their disbelief that these are just some kids trying to remember their lines and not get fired”.

Bedi said: “I resent going to the theatre and not having an interval for two hours and 45 minutes. I want more intervals.”

Many, including the Royal Court Theatre in London’s artistic director Vicky Featherstone, have taken to social media to vent their outrage and question the presenters’ fitness to run the new TV version of the flagship arts show, which has been broadcast on Radio 4 since 1998.

Featherstone called for “less entitled and more open-minded presenters”, tweeting in reply to Time Out theatre editor Andrzej Lukowski, who said the comments came across as “posh boys giving a faux man-on-the-street take on theatre”.

Playwright Dan Rebellato said the comments made by the presenters were “fucking outrageous” and argued that he could do a better job at presenting the show.

Arts and culture blogger Victoria Sadler was among many who tweeted BBC Front Row offering to take on the presenter role, while The Stage’s reviews editor Natasha Tripney criticised the choice as a missed opportunity to employ “passionate and adventurous arts journalists”.

Former BBC and Classic FM music presenter and filmmaker Tommy Pearson argued that the broadcaster would not have hired presenters with a lack of enthusiasm for sport for a sports programme.

Coren has replied to some of the Tweets he has received, including one from The Ferryman actor Laura Donnelly who responded to his comment in the Radio Times that whenever he goes to the theatre he worries about the actors forgetting their lines.

Coren later claimed that he had been joking in the Radio Times interview, in a tweet in which he referred to theatre website WhatsOnStage as “luvvie nut jobs”.