Last year, the British Theatre Consortium and UK Theatre/Society of London Theatre produced a report, British Theatre Repertoire 2013, based on the programmes of 273 auditoria, the most extensive and detailed dataset ever compiled on British theatre’s repertoire. The most striking finding was that, for the first time since records began, new work had overtaken revivals in the British Theatre repertoire.
Now we have produced a comparable report on 2014, whose findings were reported on the first day of Theatre 2016, the largest ever British theatre conference, held in three London theatres on 16 and 17 May. For 2014, the main headlines are:
- British theatre continues to defy austerity. In 2014, British theatre made over a billion at the box office.
- London theatre pulls further away from the rest of the UK in a theatre landscape dominated by long-running musicals.
- New work remains ahead of revivals, with a small decline in new writing and a marked increase in devising.
- Classical revivals are dominated by Shakespeare and women’s revivals by Agatha Christie.
- More than half of the National Theatre and RSC new plays are by women.
Read the report here.
For a year or so, BTC has been working on an Arts-Council-funded project to gather and analyse data about the British theatre repertoire. As a pilot project, Arts Council England funded us to gather the data for 2013. Partnering with UK Theatre/SOLT, we have gathered in information about 5,250 separate productions, giving us details of shows, performances, attendances, box office and more. Our information is divided by region, sector, genre, form, and gender of writer. We are confident this is the most comprehensive set of information ever gathered on the British theatre repertoire.
Highlights of the report include the following:
- For the first time since records began, new work has overtaken revivals in the British Theatre repertoire. New work constituted 59% of all productions, 63% of all seats sold, 64% of all performances and 66% of box office income.
- However, despite recent west end successes for plays like like Posh by Laura Wade, Chimerica by Lucy Kirkwood and Enron by Lucy Prebble only 31% of new plays in 2013 were written by women. Women’s plays are given fewer performances, are presented in smaller theatres and earn less money.
- Meanwhile London continues to outstrip the rest of the country, in terms of numbers of performances (46% of the UK total), attendances (54%) and box office income (66%).
- Unlike plays, only 29% of musicals are new, but they run for longer (representing 64% of performances) and win more attendances (68%). Newly-scripted pantomimes also out-perform old ones.
- A quarter of new plays are adaptations (mostly of novels). However, 86% of those adaptations are newly-written.
- New children’s theatre is booming. For every ten plays written for adults, there are now six plays written for children and young people.
You can read the report here.
In 2008, BTC was commissioned by Arts Council England to undertake research into the amount of new writing presented in the English theatre between 2003 and 2009. We surveyed the 89 regularly funded theatre organisations (including the national companies, the major reps and several touring and community theatres) and received replies from 65.
Between 1970 and 1985, new work had represented about 12% of productions in the English theatre. In the 90s that proportion rose to around 20%. We found that by 2008, in our sample, the proportion had risen to over 40%, evenly divided between auditoria of under and over 200 seats.
By collaborating with UK Theatre and SOLT, we now have access to far larger and more detailed anonymised data sets for the the whole of the membership of SOLT (the Society of London Theatres, covering the commercial, not for profit and subsidized sectors in the capital) and most venues who are members of UK Theatre (the vast majority of medium and large scale theatres in the rest of the country), for the calendar year 2013.
We hope to publish our report in late February, and to launch and discuss its findings at a conference in April. However we have produced an interim report on our findings about the overall shape of the repertoire.
The most striking finding is that new work (whether written by an individual writer or devised) represents 59% of productions, 64% of performances and 63% of attendances of all forms of theatre.
To see our interim report, click here.