SG: Yes, theatre and a dinner. And they would dress up for the occasion. But I’m not sure how central it ever was since the Greeks and then Shakespeare. I don’t feel it’s ever been a dynamo, so to speak, in our civilisation.
DJ: But is it a sort of mirror we hold up for ourselves? Is it a way in which society tries to understand itself?
CS: Well, certainly that’s what Nicholas Hytner suggested he wanted to do with the National Theatre – that he should be holding a mirror up to nature. And Michael Billington recently wrote a book called State of the Nation showing how the theatre has depicted British society since 1945. I think that’s one part of what the theatre does. By and large, I think the theatre is essentially a middle-class audience. I don’t think you can get away from that. But that’s what everyone wants to get away from, because it’s not perceived as correct. Why that should be the case – why the people who really like the theatre and have always supported it should now be regarded as inessential – I don’t know. But there is one place the theatre really does get young audiences – they do like going to really uncomfortable fringe theatres. Black box theatres do have an incredibly youthful audience. Sometimes at the Bush or the Royal Court I feel like a granddad. So it does have support among the young.
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