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David Wood: ‘Audiences for children’s theatre are becoming more middle-class as school trips decline’

Playwright David Wood. Photo: Jill Furmanovsky

Acclaimed children’s playwright David Wood has warned that young theatre audiences are becoming more middle-class because fewer schools are organising trips to shows.

Wood said he desperately wanted schools to recognise the value of theatre and bring children whose parents would not otherwise take them.

The comments were made at an event celebrating 50 years of Wood’s productions in London theatres at the West End’s Piccadilly Theatre, where Wood’s adaptation of The Tiger Who Came to Tea is running.

He told The Stage: “The danger, or the sad thing for me, is that the wonderful audiences that come [to children’s theatre] on the whole are quite middle-class – they are the type of parents who want their children to go to the theatre.

“What we all desperately want is children who are not automatically going to come to the theatre because their parents wouldn’t take them, and the schools are the ones that are going to bring them.”

He added: “The problem is we’re getting into a situation with education where there are less and less schools coming.”

Wood argued that schools were too “obsessed with tests” and did not feel they had time to take pupils to the theatre. He added that it had also become more expensive, with coach prices having risen and teachers feeling reluctant to ask parents for the money.

“It’s very sad because I think we’ve gone backwards there,” Wood added.

The dramatist also told The Stage that, although he believed there was “still a long way to go”, industry attitudes towards children’s theatre were better now than 50 years ago, and that the genre has become “much more respected”.

He added: “What is particularly encouraging is that there are people now who actually want to do the work and they don’t see it as simply a step on the ladder to doing ‘real theatre’, which is what a lot of people used to do.”