Andrew Lloyd Webber Describes Some West End Theaters as "Not Fit For the Purpose"

News   Andrew Lloyd Webber Describes Some West End Theaters as "Not Fit For the Purpose"
Lord Andrew Lloyd Webber, a global superstar composer, London impresario and leading theatre owner, as well as a notable art collector, has spoken out publicly once again about the substandard state of some West End theatres--several of which he currently owns or has owned previously.

Andrew Lloyd Webber
Andrew Lloyd Webber Photo by Aubrey Reuben

In a speech to the London Press Club Awards, held April 14 at Stationers’ and Newspapermakers’ Hall near St Paul's Cathedral, where he was named Londoner of the Year for his outstanding contribution to the success of the West End, he said, "In London we’ve got some wonderful theatres. But tastes change. Today we require theatres in a clearly different way, with a much more flexible space. We can’t think of our theatre stock as just as fossilised buildings because they’ve been built that way all this time. The theatre is a living, breathing space."

Talking of the Palace Theatre — the first theatre he owned but has since sold to Nimax Theatres — he cited the late poet and architectural campaigner John Betjamin, commenting, "John Betjeman mentioned the Palace Theatre, which I owned for along time. He described it as a wonderful theatre, but it has the fundamental drawback that it's got 1,500 seats from 600 seats of which its very difficult to see, with 400 up in the gallery. Human beings have grown taller and bigger. These theatres were built at a time when there was a class structure we don’t have any more, with seats up in the galleries- and I hate to say this as a lover of architecture – but there are theatres in London which in my view should be replaced."

Of the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane, currently home to Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and which is still part of his theatre owning portfolio (along with the Adelphi, Cambridge, Her Majesty’s Theatre, The London Palladium and the New London Theatre), he said, "[It] is hailed as great building and rightly so. The Georgian frontage is sensational, it's a wonderful piece of architecture. The auditorium was built in the 1920s and it’s a wonderful building, but it doesn’t work as well as some of the other theatres in London. It needs work and it needs attention. We’ve got to remember that one thing Betjeman says, that the architecture of entertainment is by definitions impermanent."

He went on to say, "I believe that London would be a more vibrant place if we allow a more flexible use of theatres and recognise that some of the theatres may no longer really be exactly what we want in the 21st century. There are theatres from which frankly you cant see and that aren't fit for today’s purpose."

This is not the first time he has publicly made these comments. Back in 2000, he was quoted speaking in a House of Lords debate about West End theatres that "The Apollo in particular is a shocking place. I suggested that both it and the Lyric should be knocked down and replaced by top-quality modern theatres." His company Really Useful Theatres owned both houses at the time, and and subsequently sold them to Nimax in July 2005, along with the Duchess and Garrick Theatres for £11.5m, with the sale of the Palace, also to Nimax, following in April 2012. The Apollo is the West End theatre part of whose ceiling collapsed, mid-performance during the run there of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time, in December 2013. Nica Burns, chief executive of Nimax, has publicly pointed out that before she acquired the theatre, it had "suffered years of benign neglect."

Today’s Most Popular News: