Letter: Theatrical heritage

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The Independent Online
Sir: The select committee report on the Royal Opera House was a journalistic exercise based on public interviews with the main players. Professor John Steer (letter, 10 December) is right to recommend pinches of salt. However, the Tower Bridge option ceased to be realistic when the proposal was called in for planning. What was really needed was positive government assistance in finding an alternative home.

In any other country, the Theatre Royal Drury Lane would long ago have become a publicly owned building. There have been various opportunities for it to be bought for the nation in recent decades, once for as little as pounds 4m.

Is it really in the interests of a healthy theatrical culture, for example, that shows like Miss Saigon can be "parked" in the West End for decades at a time? The industry of "cloned" live musical shows would be better provided on convenient new outer London sites near motorways. Our marvellous heritage of London theatres ought to be serving a public for live spoken theatre that has largely been allowed to disappear.

Governments must set the framework for a healthy theatrical market, but ours never have. Abroad, Drury Lane would have faced a Compulsory Purchase Order to enable the reconstruction of the nation's premier operatic and ballet showcase to proceed without farcical disruption.

TOM SUTCLIFFE

London SW16

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