Old vs New Theatre Productions-There Should Be No Winner ( let alone competition )

Tale as old as time..no I’m not talking about Disney I’m referring to Theatre Productions. Are Classics a guaranteed way of a gaining publicity and most importantly ticket sales? With a crop of new productions having their west end run ending abruptly ( yes that includes Made In Dagenham), it seems fitting to discuss what is a burning issue. 


With the recent Kenneth Branagh season announced including an assortment of Shakesperian and modern plays I was rather delighted. When you have a play such as Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet in the same year long season as Frances Verber’s play Painkillers you know there is something there for every theatre goer with all genres covered. There are however no brand new works among the line up of five plays to be performed at The Garrick. In all probability I think these well known works were predicted to be the sold out success that they have evidently been over the last month.

New works are seen as a risk there’s no denying that. This seems to apply in particular to musical theatre which seems to rightly throw caution to the wind and produce a lot of new and often outstanding productions that seem to accumulate a great response from reviewers. But this high praise is not enough seemingly, to guarantee box office success and a long run.

A classic production has the prestige behind it and a trust of a creative team and cast but could this be changing? Fringe productions of works by Shakespeare face the same lack of interest as productions of classical musicals, an example of this being the revival of Godspell this year that has been on tour closing early due to poor ticket sales. Expectations are not being  met by certain productions that can be described as being ‘cult classics’ and others are a producers dream come true. In the case of Kevin Elyot’s play My Night With Reg that was an instant success, the public were willing to give the revival of this play the accolades it deserved.

The magic ingredient to a ‘successful’ show is elusive and not a bottled liquid in Waitrose. I think in the case of a classic it should be stimulating and innovative, in the same way a brand new Show should too. Both classic and new productions should be embraced for their quality not pre-conceived ideas or reputations.


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