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Sonia Friedman: ‘The West End needs new spaces to accommodate diverse work’

Sonia Friedman with Jez Butterworth and Sam Mendes at the WhatsOnStage Awards 2018, where she collected an accolade for services to theatre. Photo: Dan Wooller Sonia Friedman with Jez Butterworth and Sam Mendes at the WhatsOnStage Awards 2018, where she collected an accolade for services to theatre. Photo: Dan Wooller
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Sonia Friedman has warned that West End theatre is missing out on “a whole body of work” because it does not have the right spaces to accommodate it.

Friedman, whose current shows include Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, The Ferryman and The Book of Mormon, said she would focus the next phase of her career on finding new and different spaces for the West End in order to stage more diverse work.

She told The Stage: “We’ve got a generation of theatre directors, designers and writers coming up and wanting to work in different types of spaces. I happen to work in the West End and they are of a particular type of space – beautiful, wonderful, but they are proscenium-arch spaces.

“I think the next phase of my career is to try to find different ways of using our spaces but also use other spaces. Something that the Society of London Theatre and the West End community need to do is think about other spaces so the work can diversify. I think we are missing a whole body of work for the West End because we don’t have the spaces.”

Friedman, whose production company won 11 Olivier awards last year, was speaking as she collected an accolade for services to theatre at the WhatsOnStage Awards last month.

WhatsOnStage Awards 2018: Winners in full

She also identified a challenge for the industry in competing with TV and film, which she said were offering growing opportunities for actors through services such as Netflix.

“Actors, wonderfully, have such huge opportunities across all mediums now but that is affecting theatre because fewer actors want to commit to theatre for long periods.

“As an industry we have to bend our head around that and make sure that the grassroots – training, education, funding – is sorted. We’ve got to make sure that [actors] want to work in theatre from the youngest ages, from three, four or five, and that will only happen if theatre is part of the very beginning of their lives.”

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