Get our free email newsletter with just one click

UK Theatre’s 2017 ticket sales figures do not represent a slump in audiences (your views, June 14)

UK Theatre president Fiona Allan has observed that any continuing reduction in ticket sales will need to be addressed. Photo: Pamela Raith
by -

The headline ‘Record slump in regional theatre audiences’ (June 7, p1) , reporting UK Theatre’s sales data for 2017, was misleading.

It is far too soon to say if there is a slump in audience figures and revenue (let alone a ‘record slump’), or if they are an anomaly – especially as UK Theatre has only been collecting and reporting this data for the past five years.

A quick look at the figures over this period shows that the total number of tickets sold and gross box office in 2017 were both higher than in 2013. The overall figures have remained relatively consistent since our records began. A reduction in revenue of 0.4% from the previous year hardly constitutes a slump, and at 1.5%, the average rise in ticket prices is below the rate of inflation.

Rather than a warning, UK Theatre president Fiona Allan made the observation that, if a trend is identified over the next few years, the theatre industry will need to examine the cause of this and explore new ways to retain and grow audiences.

These are times when colleagues across the industry are working hard to find ways of operating successfully, despite reduced funding and higher operating costs. Neutral, objective reporting of the data would support us all in helping to achieve this.

Cassie Chadderton
Head of UK Theatre
Fiona Allan
UK Theatre president and chief executive of Birmingham Hippodrome


Perhaps part of the problem is the lack of originality in programming. An ever increasing number of tours that are seen in theatres all over, rather than individual seasons.

Full credit to Sheffield Crucible, Manchester Royal Exchange and Bolton Octagon, which produce unique seasons. But Leicester Curve, which used to offer a unique programme at the Haymarket, recently stated that big tour shows were the only way to balance the books.

William Hill
Via thestage.co.uk


I’m not sure anyone should be panicking purely based on these figures. One year of decreased sales doesn’t make a trend; come next year’s figures we might see that the drop was a blip.

There are so many different factors that could affect sales – and as far as I can see from this article there’s no evidence to suggest ticket prices are to blame.

The aggregated figures also don’t show any variations between regions, theatres or types of show that might help us get a more nuanced view of what’s going on.

Hannah Leverett
Via thestage.co.uk

EU lighting rules threaten health

LightAware is a charity dedicated to raising awareness of the effects of artificial lighting on human health and well-being. We are pleased to see the Save Stage Lighting campaign gaining momentum and drawing attention to the tightening of the EU ban on incandescent lighting (‘Theatres face £180 million bill under EU lighting rule’, April 19).

LightAware would like to alert readers to the fact that this legislation goes far beyond theatre, and constitutes a crisis not just in the arts but also in health and social justice.

The latest phase of the lighting legislation proposes taking the remaining incandescent, halogen and much fluorescent lighting off the market, leaving LED as the main light source for homes and businesses.

Our charity has been contacted by people from throughout the UK and around the world who suffer pain and ill health when exposed to LED lighting. Symptoms include trouble thinking clearly, debilitating headache, migraine, dizziness, eye pain, skin rash and burning.

The recent changes in lighting are having a devastating effect on the lives of people who are unable to tolerate the new lighting technologies and are creating a serious issue of social exclusion.

LightAware has also submitted a proposed exemption which, if allowed, would give people who can’t tolerate LEDs access to incandescent lights for their homes and workplaces.

This would not resolve the wider issue of how light-sensitive people can access healthcare, council services, libraries, places of worship, travel and social life, but it would be a starting point in recognising the real damage this legislation has done to the lives of sufferers.

Dr John Lincoln and Eleanor Levin
LightAware Trustees

EU lighting proposals: Everything you need to know

Dolly mixture

Your obituary of William Perrie says he appeared alongside Millicent Martin in Hello, Dolly! at Theatre Royal Drury Lane in 1965, when, in fact, Mary Martin starred in the show, to be succeeded the following year by Dora Bryan, who played the role for the remainder of the show’s run.

Millicent Martin would have been 31 years old at the time – a bit juvenile for the title role. Now, should any enterprising producer be so inspired, she would be ideal casting for Dolly.

Chris Ishermann
Email address supplied

Real-age casting

Following Amanda Abbington’s comments on roles for middle-aged women (May 31, p2) should we have real-age casting?

In many TV shows and films, mothers and their adult daughters look the same age, and experienced cops or doctors look barely out of college. How about casting to age?

Amanda Abbington and Mark Gatiss join campaign to fight ‘scrapheap challenge’ for older actresses

And perhaps the industry should consider beauty-neutral casting. Every actress doesn’t need to look the same: skinny, with long hair, enhanced lips and unreal boobs.

Fiona Rogan
Via thestage.co.uk

Quotes of the week

Noma Dumezweni

“I really do believe [the political undertones are] why [the play is] resonating at the moment. We, all as human beings, are fighting to be connected. If you’re not seen and not heard, that’s where the dangerous stuff happens. That’s where people under the radar do very cruel things.” – Noma Dumezweni (Marie Claire)

“One of my sons bought me a karaoke machine a few years ago. If I’m particularly stressed learning lines, I sing along to a few songs by Nina Simone, Adele or Susan Boyle.” – Alison Steadman, (Guardian)

“I was asked about [Killer Joe] a year ago, then it came back around, and I just wanted to change the conversation from Pirates and Legolas to something more dynamic, dark and interesting.” – Actor Orlando Bloom on performing in Killer Joe at Trafalgar Studios (BBC News online)

“There’s far less emphasis on theatre as a background [for emerging performers]; the whole repertory system has declined so that you can’t go out and practise for four or five years. I hesitate to say any change is bad or good, but I certainly think it was a fantastic plus when I started that I didn’t have to worry about a screen credit for four or five years and I just did play after play all over the country.” – Actor and writer David Haig at the launch of Pressure at the Ambassadors Theatre

“Directing is paying attention, concentrating and being curious. The stamina of paying attention all day is one of the main skills of directing.” – Director Ian Rickson speaking at a platform on Translations at the National Theatre

“Certainly you couldn’t fail to be a gay performer in this aggressively heterosexual boys’ club world without feeling the parallel to someone like Oscar [Wilde]. When you’re gay in this business, unless you’re a writer, a studio executive or a hairdresser, you’re simply a second-class citizen. That attitude makes it very difficult.” –Rupert Everett (Times)

“There’s lads who get their nails pulled out and six or eight litres of blood on stage at one point. It’s no joke. But it’s very funny.” – Actor Aidan Turner on The Lieutenant of Inishmore (WhatsOnStage)

“I remember someone saying to me after Uncle Vanya, ‘You’re really not afraid to play somebody awful. You’re not scared of being unlikeable in some ways.’” – Vanessa Kirby (Sunday Times)

Email your views to alistair@thestage.co.uk Please mark your email as ‘for publication’. The Stage reserves the right to edit letters for publication.

Twitter: @TheStage
Facebook: facebook.com/thestage

We need your help…

When you subscribe to The Stage, you’re investing in our journalism. And our journalism is invested in supporting theatre and the performing arts.

The Stage is a family business, operated by the same family since we were founded in 1880. We do not receive government funding. We are not owned by a large corporation. Our editorial is not dictated by ticket sales.

We are fully independent, but this means we rely on revenue from readers to survive.

Help us continue to report on great work across the UK, champion new talent and keep up our investigative journalism that holds the powerful to account. Your subscription helps ensure our journalism can continue.