Cameron Mackintosh offers lifeline to UK's regional theatres amid huge funding cuts

West End impresario is opening a London home for drama from around UK

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The Independent Culture

Regional theatres facing huge funding cuts may have found an unlikely saviour in the West End impresario Sir Cameron Mackintosh, after he announced plans to open a London home for great drama from around the UK that “would otherwise vanish”.

Sir Cameron plans to transform the Grade II-listed Ambassadors Theatre, currently home to Stomp, into the Sondheim Theatre, a dedicated space for subsidised theatres in the regions as well as the capital.

Named after the composer Stephen Sondheim, it will have about 450 seats and plans to stage shows from around the country.

The project is supported by theatres outside the capital including Sheffield Theatres, Chichester Festival Theatre and Leicester’s Curve. Currently there is no venue in London’s West End that fits the bill for the majority of subsidised theatres to transfer work, as most of the theatres are too large or too much of a  financial risk for smaller theatres to gamble on.

Theatres face troubled times with leading industry figures recently warning that venues, especially those outside London, are under threat from a projected £3.3bn cut to local authority funding over the next two years. Arts Council funding has also come under pressure.

Erica Whyman, the deputy artistic director of the Royal Shakespeare Company and the former head of Northern Stage, told The Independent: “Regional theatres are frequently making terrific work that gets one outing or a very short run.

“This is a positive step for various reasons and not just because the organisations can bring in more money. Profile means a great deal to regional theatres. [They get to be] taken seriously in London and it’s great to bring in artists.”

Nicholas Allott, the managing director of Cameron Mackintosh Ltd, told The Stage that the project “offers an opportunity for some of the exciting work in the regions to get a showcase”.

Regional productions: Capital successes?

Racing Demon 
Sheffield Crucible, 2011

“They revived really interesting plays in the David Hare season. It absolutely should have come to London.”

Far Away
Bristol Old Vic, 2010

“Simon Godwin’s production of Caryl Churchill’s play was exquisite. A lot from Bristol hasn’t made it into London.”

Picked by RSC deputy artistic director Erica Whyman

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