To have an interval or not to have an interval? That is the question theatres are asking themselves nowadays. And increasingly they seem to be leaning towards not having one.
Danny Boyle's Frankenstein opened last week at the National Theatre without a break in the middle of the play. Million Dollar Quartet, which premieres tonight at the Noel Coward Theatre in the West End, will be interval-free. Smaller regional theatres often ditch the breaks too.
There are some advantages to the trend. Anyone who has ever reached the front of a long bar queue only to hear the bell ring for the resumption of the performance will have cause to curse the institution of the interval. And some theatres seem to regard the break as an excuse to screw as much money out of the audience as possible. It is a rare institution that charges less for a glass of wine than the pub round the corner.
Yet there are also disadvantages, in particular the elimination of an opportunity to visit the lavatory. Alfred Hitchcock once remarked: "The length of a film should be directly related to the endurance of the human bladder." If we are to embark on a new, interval-free era, that should probably apply to plays too.