Why aren't the Laurence Olivier Awards worth broadcasting?

Theatre may not have the likes of Leonard di Caprio and Sandra Bullock. But the shortlist for the Oliviers isn’t low on glamour

Share

What makes an art form ‘sexy’? I’m at a loss to know. Personally, I find live theatre quite sexy — exciting, arousing, occasionally electrifying. The main TV channels clearly don’t agree as they won’t be broadcasting one of theatre’s showpieces next month, the Laurence Olivier Awards. 

In 2013, ITV broadcast a highlights package on its main channel, in the evening of the awards, but didn’t continue doing so subsequently. Until 2003, the Oliviers were filmed and shown after the ceremony on BBC2, and seven years later the BBC picked up coverage again, with Radio 2 broadcasting live from the event. This year that live broadcast will also cease.

Film, of course, is sexy. Only a few weeks ago the BBC broadcast the Baftas, not just the awards themselves, but what felt like hours of the stars arriving on the red carpet at the Royal Opera House. The Oliviers will also be at the Royal Opera House, so there are no concerns about location. It’s just the ‘sexy’ factor.

I remain puzzled. Theatre may not have the likes of Leonard di Caprio and Sandra Bullock. But the shortlist for the Oliviers isn’t low on glamour. The arrivals will include the likes of Jude Law, Hayley Atwell, Katherine Kingsley, and national treasures such as Dames Judi Dench and Edna Everage thrown in.

So why isn’t it worth broadcasting? I can only assume that the BBC believes that young people don’t go to the theatre, and so it lacks that indefinable sex appeal. They are not wholly wrong about the demographic of theatre audiences. But I continue to believe that is nothing to do with the product and everything to do with the price. Theatre quite simply prices itself out of the market, particularly for young people used to cinema prices. The estimable Michael Grandage in his recent West End season showed that one can pack houses with new, young audiences, by offering cheap tickets — £10 in the case of his season of Shakespeare, modern classics and one new play. The National Theatre has also had success with its £12 Travelex tickets seasons.

Producers need to think about the future of the art form as well as their own pockets and entice new audiences in with cheap tickets. At the same time, television, not least the BBC, should be encouraging a love of theatre. A commitment to to do more broadcasts of great performances and some — any — classic drama would be wonderful. Broadcasting the Laurence Olivier Awards, with exerpts from some of the shortlisted productions, from the hilariously irreverent musical The Book of Mormon to Jude Law in Henry V, would have been a good and glamorous way to give TV viewers a taste of some of the great work that has been on during the last year. It’s an opportunity wasted.

Is it the end of a musical era?

Even Christine Keeler and Mandy Rice Davies were insufficiently sexy, it seems, as the Andrew Lloyd Webber musical Stephen Ward about the 1963 Profumo scandal closes tonight, as does From Here to Eternity by Lloyd Webber’s erstwhile sparring partner, Tim Rice. It’s an unhappy coincidence, but do the two early closures really mean the end of a musical era, as many have been saying? I think not. Lloyd Webber will be back for sure. He remains one of the greatest composers of musical theatre in the world. His biggest mistake with this show was the decidedly unsexy title. Tim Rice’s musical was simply not good enough.  This still fine lyricist needs to ally himself with a great composer again. Lord Lloyd-Webber might be at a loose end.

The arts are not a premium extra

David Elstein, who has served in extremely senior positions at various TV channels, has been part of a team looking into whether the BBC licence fee should be replaced by subscription. I was struck by an aside that Elstein made in an article on the subject. He advocated a basic subscription service for the BBC and a premium service for such things as sport, movies, documentaries and the arts. Can we please kill this notion that the arts are a premium extra rather than a basic need? To give credit to Sky, it puts its arts channels on its most basic subscription. The arts have to be seen as essential viewing and the most basic part of any television service alongside news and current affairs. It’s depressing that a TV guru could suggest otherwise.

d.lister@independent.co.uk

twitter.com/davidlister1

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: IT Support Analyst - Urgent - Cheshire - £25p/h

£20 - £25 per hour: Ashdown Group: The Ashdown Group have been engaged by a hu...

Sauce Recruitment: Partnership Sales Executive - TV

competitive + benefits: Sauce Recruitment: An award-winning global multi-media...

Sauce Recruitment: Account Director

£26017.21 - £32521.19 per annum + OTE $90,000: Sauce Recruitment: My client is...

Recruitment Genius: Linux Systems Administrator

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This leading provider of UK Magento hosting so...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

I loathe the term ‘hard-working people’. It's patronising, snobbish and wrong

Simon Kelner
Auschwitz death camp survivor Jadwiga Bogucka, 89, holds a picture of herself from 1944  

Holocaust Memorial Day: This isn't the time to mark just another historical event, but to remember humanity at its worst

Jennifer Lipman
Woman who was sent to three Nazi death camps describes how she escaped the gas chamber

Auschwitz liberation 70th anniversary

Woman sent to three Nazi death camps describes surviving gas chamber
DSK, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel

The inside track on France's trial of the year

Dominique Strauss-Kahn, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel:
As provocative now as they ever were

Sarah Kane season

Why her plays are as provocative now as when they were written
Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of a killing in Iraq 11 years ago

Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of another killing

Japanese mood was against what was seen as irresponsible trips to a vicious war zone
Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

The enemy within

People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

Autumn/winter menswear 2015

The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore
'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

Army general planning to come out
Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

The geeks who rocked the world

A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea