Broadway is being crippled by an attendance crisis that is forcing many productions to close early, according to the actor Sir Patrick Stewart.
Three plays with high-profile British interests were among those Broadway productions to shut early this month. Sir Patrick claims that he knows of "between eight and a dozen" other productions imminently facing the axe.
He expressed dismay at "extraordinarily difficult" ticket sales in the run-up to Christmas – traditionally a good time for the box office – and said the slump highlighted the gulf in fortunes betweeen New York's and London's theatre districts.
The actor, who was due to appear in the David Mamet production A Life in the Theatre until early January, was forced to fly back to Britain after the play closed five weeks early last month.
As a result, Sir Patrick said, London is now "the capital of theatre". He explained: "There is always a huge choice that is constantly available and revivals too. There is a theatre-going habit which is really entrenched in this country."
The actor said: "This is so frustrating for everyone. It is very disappointing that so many shows aren't doing well. We are in a recession, people are anxious about jobs, pensions, health and theatre prices are high. It continues to shock me."
He added: "Our box office [takings] fell off so suddenly. Almost over a week it plummeted. I know we are being followed by two or three others... and I have been told between eight and a dozen shows are under the axe because people are not coming."
Elling, a play about two released mental patients, produced by Brits Howard Panter and Bill Kenwright, also closed last month, one week after opening. La Bête, starring Mark Rylance and Joanna Lumley, will close on 9 January after just 100 performances.
Last week, musicals The Scottsboro Boys and Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson announced they were to close due to poor ticket sales. "In a crowded Broadway fall that saw 39 productions running during Thanksgiving week, it can be tough to carve out a profile," reported Variety.