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An Open Letter to Cameron Mackintosh

Dear Cameron,

I was disappointed to read your comments in The Times that the commercial, large-scale west end is more deserving of government support than subsidised theatres in light of the ongoing Covid-19 crisis.

Your claims that theatres receiving financial aid were ones “that were going to fail”, and were those that were “vaguely solvent or been able to look after their money” were harmful. Indeed, stupid.

Furthermore, I, like many of my colleagues was saddened to read that you felt the need to lay off 850 casual and freelance staff.

Global recession aside, you could have taken the hit to support workers until the end of October and still protected your significant wealth.

Needless to say, your recent article for the Evening Standard told me only two things: where you are at, and just how out of touch you are.

It would be cynical, of course, for one to suggest you are saying things to distract attention from less flattering areas of your business – the complaints about alleged working conditions at Delfont Mackintosh, your grotty stance on Brexit or the recent debacle with The Phantom of the Opera in London.

So, can I encourage you to dismount the high horse, admit your political bias and adjust your perspective? I understand it is hard for a creative spirit like yours to lie low for too long.

What you should be doing, of course, is dreaming up bold and imaginative new ways to see us through these difficult times. God knows we need that.

Regrettably, what you are actually doing at the moment, is undermining an industry on its knees. And that is wrong. And it’s disappointing.

Regional theatres may not be at the top or your agenda but they are the bedrock of our culture – dismiss that civic role at your peril.

Arts centres and theatres outside the M25 in villages, towns and cities lend UK theatre its authentic diversity and richness. Much of their success comes from the provenance to a particular community. Everything is interlocked.

One sentiment that we can both agree on is that it is good business to do good business; I know that you pride yourself on your acumen.

For some of us, away from the glittering west end it’s choosing, if able, to shop with local businesses over big supermarket chains.

For other’s it’s seeing sense in taking a short-term hit on that pricier but more robust hoover because you really don’t want to buy more than one between now and death. There’s a lot to be said for consumer choice, ethics and brand reputation.

Theatre is hard work. It’s also an industry that’s now harder than ever to access if you’re working class. If you’re born outside of London.

With this in mind, theatres across England have had no choice to respond to the difficult challenges posed by prolonged austerity and a decade of funding cuts; their increased reliance on income from box offices, cafes and bars has made them uniquely vulnerable.

I’ve always admired your dedication to refurbishing your theatre buildings; investing significant money in making them fit for 21st century audiences.

Quite simply, though, theatre is about the people and the talent, not just the bricks and mortar.

Yours sincerely,

Carl Woodward