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London theatre thriving in 2009

Published August 6, 2009

London’s Theatreland is enjoying a bumper 2009, with over 7.5 million theatre visits to 18 July, pushing audience numbers for the first half of the year higher than they were in a record-breaking 2008.

Figures released today by the Society of London Theatre (SOLT) show that attendances for the year so far are up by 2.5% on the same period in 2008, with box office receipts up 3.5%, bucking the economic downturn prevalent in many other sectors at this time.

While musicals still draw the majority of the West End’s theatregoers, plays have had a particularly resurgent 2009, with around two million audience members enjoying a play in the first six months of the year, increasing play attendance by 19% on 2008.

“Today’s figures are a real cause for celebration,” commented SOLT Chief Executive Richard Pulford, “not just for the theatre industry, but for the London economy generally. At a time of economic uncertainty, it’s marvellous that people aren’t retreating into their shells. Instead, they’re choosing to come together in our theatres to be entertained, challenged and uplifted.”

London’s theatregoers have been drawn to the theatre capital of the world by the eclectic range of shows on offer during the first half of 2009. From the star-led productions of Waiting For Godot (Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen), Madame De Sade (Judi Dench), Hamlet (Jude Law), Phèdre (Helen Mirren) and A Doll’s House (Gillian Anderson), to the launch of popular new musicals Sister Act and Priscilla Queen Of The Desert The Musical, plus the revival of classics including A View From The Bridge and Arcadia, the stage adaptation of hit film Calendar Girls and the National Theatre’s ground-breaking production of War Horse, there has been something for everyone on the London stage in 2009.

Commenting on the news, producer and SOLT President Nica Burns added: “Why are we doing so well? We’ve got some great shows at the moment; basically, it’s as simple as that. I’m particularly thrilled that plays are thriving as their demise has been regularly reported in the past. Today, the play is alive and well and living in the West End alongside our brilliant musicals and our world-class dance and opera. There’s nowhere in the world that matches London for the breadth and quality of its theatre.”

The news comes as the West End prepares for its annual Kids Week promotion, which aims to give young people a fantastic opportunity to both go to the theatre for free and to get involved with workshops and activities. The promotion, which runs from 14 to 28 August, has already sold 41,000 tickets, adding to the success of London theatre this year.

MA