Liam Rudden: Happy days are gone again

Fame The Musical. 'Picture Tony Marsh
Fame The Musical. 'Picture Tony Marsh
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THE news that the UK tour of Fame was being curtailed came through the other day. The show that once boasted it would live forever... didn’t. Nothing does, especially in theatre-land, where producers are currently fighting a losing battle with audiences - or rather, the lack of them.

Fame is the latest in a long line of productions to have had the curtain brought down prematurely. Just the other month Happy Days pulled its week in the Capital, shortening its tour, and the entire tour of 20th Century Boy, the Marc Bolan story, was axed before it even got on the road.

And it’s not just here. Recently, the entire American arena tour of Jesus Christ Superstar was cancelled days before the British cast, including Johnny ‘Rotten’ Lydon as Herod - I’d have paid to see that alone - were due to fly out.

In London too, shows are dropping at an alarming rate, Andrew Lloyd Webber’s excellent Stephen Ward The Musical, and the well received X Factor parody I Can’t Sing being just two of the casualties. Even old stalwarts like Queen’s We Will Rock You have finally succumbed to the dearth of audiences.

So why are our theatres toiling to put bums on seats? There are a number of reasons. Booking fees have a massive impact on the cost of a night out, and it’s hard to see how some could ever be justified. Then there is the price of the ticket itself. Not all, but some, are ridiculously high.

The quality of product doesn’t always help either, producing the old pot-boilers time and again may attract an (ever diminishing) core audience, but hardly inspires those looking for something a bit more contemporary to challenge their usual outing to their local cinema - a cheaper option.

Or maybe people simply don’t have the cash for theatre any more. In which case, a massive shift in thinking is required by producers.

It’ll be interesting to see what impact there is on the Fringe.