Entertainment & Arts

Star turns boost West End plays

Keira Knightley
Image caption Keira Knightley appeared with Damian Lewis in The Misanthrope

Star performers, including Keira Knightley, helped ensure that the proportion of West End theatregoers watching plays in 2010 rose again.

The share of attendances for plays last year was 26.2% - up 0.7% from 2009, the Society of London Theatre (SOLT) said. It was already up 4.3% from 2008.

The share for musicals was 59.5% - down 1.2% from 2009. It fell 4.4% from 2008 to 2009. Total attendances topped 14m.

Figures refuted "claims that musicals are taking over", the SOLT said.

Plays also achieved a record attendance total of 3,702,031, while the musicals attendance total was down 3% to 8,423,430.

In its box office data report, the SOLT states that "the big driver" behind business in 2010 was major name actors in plays.

They included Knightley and Damian Lewis in The Misanthrope, as well as Sex and the City actress Kim Cattrall and Matthew Macfadyen in Private Lives.

Image caption Sheridan Smith starred in Legally Blonde

Other stars of the screen who trod the West End boards included David Suchet and Zoe Wanamaker, in All My Sons, and Sherlock star Martin Freeman in Clybourne Park.

The overall attendances, at 14,152,230 were 0.8% down on 2009's record figure.

"Arguably this would have been exceeded if the country had not been 'closed due to snow' for two weeks in December," the SOLT said.

It said major new musicals were scarce, saying the few that did open included Phantom of the Opera sequel love Never Dies, Broadway hit Fela! and Legally Blonde with Sheridan Smith.

Box office receipts reached a record high of £512.3m.

The figures cover theatres that are members of the SOLT, which include those in the commercial West End as well as major grant-aided institutions.

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