London theatre figures have just been released for the whole of 2012, and the West End has done a lot better than many people feared. Andrew Lloyd Webber’s assertion that there would be a “bloodbath” at London theatre last year because of the Olympics, and that takings would plummet, have proved to be unfounded.
Theatre sales actually went up compared with 2011, with just under 14 million tickets being sold for West End shows.
The 40-50 theatres that are generally considered to make up the West End play a major role in London and national UK life. It’s perhaps not so much that they shape our culture, in the way other London spheres like business, politics and media undoubtedly do. It’s more that they reflect our culture back to us, and show the things we value or are interested in.
So what was valued in 2012? There is a continuation in the rise of musicals, either based on familiar stories, or the back catalogues of famous musicians. Viva Forever (featuring the music of the Spice Girls) and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory both debuted in 2012, and are typical of this trend. Although attendance at musicals actually went down by 3% compared to the previous year, there seems no end to the new ones being brought to the stage.
Some familiar faces did end their West End run in 2012 though. Blood Brothers ended its run, and Chicago finally closed after 15 years.
Should we rejoice that a musical so overtly advertised as murder, adultery and deceit is no longer showing? Should we pray that our West End theatre reflects more positive aspects of our culture?
What’s your prayer for London theatre in 2013?
Mark Williamson also blogs regularly at One Rock International, a training organisation resourcing missionary leaders across the globe. He’s passionate about good films, good food, getting into deep conversations, and going for long walks with his wife Joanna.