Belfast Telegraph

Libby Purves criticises BBC’s ‘lacklustre’ approach to theatre

The former Radio 4 host accused the broadcaster of swapping serious discussion for chatty promotion.

Broadcaster Libby Purves has criticised the BBC for “ignoring” theatre unless celebrities are involved.

The former Radio 4 host, 67, accused the broadcaster of swapping serious discussion for “chatty promotion”.

Her comments come after Giles Coren, the new presenter of BBC’s Front Row TV show, was criticised for saying he had not been to the theatre much in the last six years, that the seats were uncomfortable and there should be better access to the toilet.

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Purves told Radio Times magazine that “the BBC has been largely ignoring our broad, diverse live theatre culture for years, except when it involves screen celebrities”.

She added: “It avoids critical discussion and knowledgeable argument, opting instead for chatty promotion.”

She lamented the “BBC’s lacklustre approach to covering” theatre.

The notion that the theatre is “elite” and “just for “luvvies” was “unfair”, she said, adding that British theatre was “on a roll” and “a magnet for Hollywood stars” such as Nicole Kidman and Kevin Spacey.

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Nicole Kidman on the red carpet

“More people watch live theatre every year than Premier League football matches,” she said.

Purves said of the new Front Row presenters: “They are so green that one wonders if they could find their seat, let alone the bar.”

The theatre critic signed off from Radio 4 show Midweek in March following more than 30 years on air.

Her former radio show Midweek was replaced with a pre-recorded, presenter-free 30-minute interview series.

A BBC spokesperson said: “The BBC has always had a huge commitment to discursive programming about British theatre and this year has increased its coverage through a range of topical arts programming from Front Row on BBC Two to BBC Radio 4’s new theatre show Opening Night. In addition, the BBC brings viewers the very best in theatre through partnerships such as Performance Live and standout adaptations across all our channels. BBC Two’s Front Row covers a rich mix of arts and cultural subjects including Theatre review, discussion and guests from the latest productions across the UK.”

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