Local authority cuts could lead to a “breakdown” in British theatre, according to the chairman of HQ Theatres Trust.
Speaking in a House of Lords inquiry into skills for the theatre industry, Stephen Hetherington warned there could be a “serious decline” in new productions due to a lack of funding.
He said: “Local authority reduction in spending is having an increasing effect in driving producing theatres to become presenting theatres.
“Some theatres have extended their seasons of presenting and that is corrosive if our ultimate aims are social, economic, but also to do with the well-being of our nation.
“If those things are to continue to grow and succeed, then there are particular areas we need to address and one is the potentially serious decline in productions as a result of local authority reduced spending.”
Hetherington emphasised the importance of subsidised theatre, arguing that there is a “level of subsidy in everything” across British theatre.
He said: “A theatre company comes with a level of subsidy, and often theatres can only receive money because a show is subsidised.
“This is turning some producing theatres to presenting theatres and that is going to lead to problems if we don’t have the product to put in front of the public.”
He added: “The whole thing will break down. It’s like a supermarket that does not have the product to sell.”
Hetherington also criticised the way data on the industry is recorded and called for more transparency.
He said: “It’s very difficult to know what is what; the way records are kept is diabolical.
“There are also issues around what the producers and presenters are prepared to disclose. The Americans are very gung-ho with this, but it has been tried here a number of times and has failed to work.
“It starts off well but everyone gets misinformation because no one wants their theatre to be seen to be declining or as if they have failed to put on a show when they know they’ve got to negotiate with producers for another show.”