Ian McKellen has urged theatremakers to “insist on working up and down the country” to ensure regional audiences have access to the best theatre.
His comments were made during a speech at the Evening Standard Theatre Awards 2019 at the London Coliseum on November 24.
McKellen won the editor’s award for his On Stage tour, which saw the actor visit more than 80 theatres with the profits from the shows going to support causes at each venue.
McKellen argued that both the amount of regional productions and tours across the UK had plummeted since he began acting.
“When I started acting, each major city and town in this country had its own local, subsidised theatre, where a resident company presented a changing programme of plays throughout the year,” McKellen said.
“[…] Our commercial productions used to tour before they reached London, and, if successful, after their West End runs. Then the cheaper system of previews came about, and so that too went.”
McKellen questioned why regional audiences are no longer able to see the “best [theatre] closer to home”.
He added: “Many are concerned, I know, and are doing something about it. But they will not succeed unless actors, stage managers, producers, directors, and, perhaps most crucially, new playwrights agree, even insist on working up and down the country for our own benefit and for the benefit of our regional audiences.”