More and more people are making a london theatre booking these days because of the stars in the shows. The last few years has seen a big crossover from TV and film into the theatre world, with actors increasingly seeing plays as a way of broadening their skills set. Any good drama teacher would tell you that a good grounding in theatre is the best way to sharpen up acting talent and become a more rounded performer. To take a career in television or the movies to the next level these days actors have to bring that something extra to the table. The writing in many shows on the box both here and across the pond is acknowledged to be at a particularly high standard, with many high profile actors such as Glenn Close, Hugh Laurie and Kathy Bates choosing to do televison series because the writing is so much better than many of the movies they are offered. Great scripts with fully rounded characters come with a need for actors who can draw on a full range of their talent - just being a pretty face isn't enough any more.
Theatre of course offers an immediate response for an actor - they will soon know if they are missing the mark if the audience is groaning whenever they step on the stage night after night. These wake up calls force an actor to rethink a characterisation there and then, and make small changes where necessary on a nightly basis. With a big budget film an actor may have fudged the role without being aware of it. By the time they see themsleves on screen and discover audiences aren't rocking up to the cinema in the numbers they expected this is likely to be over a year later and their headspace is probably in a completely different role by then. If an actor has misjudged their role on stage they will soon know about it when the reviewers tear them apart, and then they will simply have to get on stage the following night and up their game.
It's not a co-incidence that the savvier stars not necessarily known for their acting chops dive into a West End show. Their reviews may not be so favourable for their first West End outing - Keira Knightley, Sienna Miller and Madonna please stand up - but if they have the balls to get back out there again they have usually learnt from their mistakes and begin to win the critics over. Knightley was described as "little better than adequate" by the Daily Mail for The Misanthrope yet is currently winning rave reviews for The Children's Hour, while Miller is being much better received in Flare Path at the Theatre Royal Haymarket than she was for her debut in As You Like It. We are still eagerly awaiting Madonna's follow up to her critically-mauled performance in Up For Grabs…
Of course audiences still go and see these shows anyway when there is a little star power behind them, irrespective of reviews, and what's so bad about that? The more people making a london theatre booking
instead of sitting at home with their Playstation or getting out that Lost boxset for the twentieth time the better.