West End theatre producers have such “an obsession with celebrity” that they are turning down acclaimed productions with unknown actors because they lack a star from television or film. It is “the merely famous” that attracts them.
The damning cricitism was voiced to The Times by Sir Jonathan Miller, one of the world’s eminent directors, who said that audiences in the capital were missing out on seeing much praised productions from the provinces.
Sir Jonathan, 73, was made an associate director at the National Theatre by Laurence Olivier and showered with Olivier awards for his Old Vic productions. Two of his recent productions, Hamlet in Bristol and The Cherry Orchard in Sheffield, received rave reviews yet he could not get a London producer interested because his cast had no famous names.
Yet Jamie Ballard in the title role of Hamlet at the Tobacco Factory in March prompted critics to hail him as an “exceptional talent” and the entire cast, down to the walk-ons, as excellent. The Times described Ballard as “intelligent and incisive” while The Mail on Sunday called him “the most moving, sexy and sensitive young Hamlet since Jonathan Pryce in 1980”... [article continues]