Make Room, Make Room 1
I’m kidding, we love you, but please stop seeing lousy old shows in the West End. You won’t gain any credibility back home by telling people you saw a show that’s been running intermittently for 37 years (‘Chicago’) or 59 years (‘The Mousetrap’).
I was talking to Howard, my New York agent, today, and he explained that the same thing is happening both sides of the Atlantic. Economic mobility has brought mass tourism to two cities that can now barely take the strain.
One side effect is making creaky old shows like ‘Phantom Of The Opera’ continue on tourist currency – at many performances, 90% of the audience is non-English speaking. Which is fine in moderation, but Broadway and the West End need new blood, and now that they’re flooded with these dusty spectacles, theatre is stagnating as fast as costs are rising.
There are virtually no new plays appearing, and those that do have hefty price tags because tourists want big scenery, not intricate wordplay. I sat through ‘Paint Never Dries’, possibly the worst musical of all time, surrounded by Chinese tourists who seemed to be loving it, possibly because they didn’t realise that the dialogue has all the elegance of an orthopaedic boot.
There’s an old joke about The Mousetrap’: A bad-tempered tourist harangues a taxi driver on the way to the show, then undertips him as he gets out. The taxi driver shouts. ‘Have a good evening sir, and by the way, the detective did it.’