Impresario says theatre is in state of neglect

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SIR CAMERON Mackintosh, Britain's most successful theatre impresario, revealed yesterday that the Government had ignored an offer he made to provide his help in highlighting and solving problems facing the country's theatres.

Asked whether New Labour had consulted him at all, Sir Cameron replied: "I don't think they think about me for two seconds. I volunteered to do something on regional theatre, but I never even got a reply."

He said that he had offered to bring together a group of 20 key figures from across the theatre to collate information and highlight the plight of regional theatre. "I wanted to put my energy there. It was a very personal offer. But I think that surprised them. [My offer] may have been seen as part of the luvvies bite back syndrome."

He added that the Government might not view him as an obvious ally. "Peter [Mandelson] knows me well enough to know I'm not a crony," he said.

He added that there was interest in the theatre in Downing Street. "Cherie is very interested in theatre," he said. "Her side of the family are in the theatre."

Sir Cameron said he was deeply worried about the state of regional theatre, which desperately needed more funding. "We are on the brink of the destruction of the system that gave us great new stars, great new directors, great new designers. It's terrible that we haven't tried to re-invent the regional theatre on a modern scale.

"We need theatres with two or three auditoriums that can feed off each other. We need half-a-dozen theatres that can produce new Richard Eyres and new Trevor Nunns." In the West End, he said, the state of the theatre buildings needed addressing most urgently.

"West End theatres are the last Victorian relics that haven't been modernised. The viewing from all of the seats should be equally attractive. Getting a drink has to be made pleasant," he said. This should be addressed by whoever buys the Stoll Moss group of a dozen theatres that are up for sale. Sir Cameron, who already owns seven West End theatres, said he would not be bidding for the group.

But he also said he would not be re-naming the Prince of Wales theatre, which he owns and which Lady Delfont, the widow of impresario Lord Delfont, has said should be named after her late husband, as had been promised in the past.

Sir Cameron said: "With respect to Bernie [Delfont] I can't imagine a better name than the Prince of Wales. Has Lady Delfont ever wondered how many theatres in London Lord Delfont destroyed?"