Dennis Kelly: Matilda the Musical? A risk only subsidised theatre would take

No one in the commercial sector would have backed a Roald Dahl musical by Tim Minchin and me. If arts cuts continue, we’re likely to damage UK theatre’s international success, writes Dennis Kelly

I stumbled across this really interesting Guardian article through Twitter about the success of the Royal Shakespeare Company’s production of Matilda the Musical.

It is funny how it talks about cutting the risk of investing in a musical by going with safe options rather than gambling with people like Dennis Kelly and Tim Minchin. In this case, a risk proved to pay off and I think more risks should be encouraged in the theatre world as it drives new ideas to reach the people and encourages creativity.

I’m not suggesting that risky stage productions will always pull through but even shows that can be seen as safe bets are not safe on the West End, most recently proven by From Here to Eternity. The Hawaiian wartime musical seemed a sure success with lyrical great Tim Rice involved yet is closing after a mere six and a half months on a London stage.

The article also highlights how the success of this production is fuelling the success of others which may have never found West End stage time without a chance from public funding. It’s no wonder that West End theatre profits are currently growing year on year when the capital is pushing the boundaries and bringing true, fresh creativity to the stage.

I really hope that this trend will grow in years to come and more subsidised productions will find their way onto West End stages, particularly when profits can be reinvested so well. 90% of Matilda the Musical’s profits go back to the RSC, a charity which not only funds new theatrical ideas but also education. A winning system like this can surely keep the West End booming through a difficult economic spell, and that is music to my ears!

I must hand it to Dennis Kelly; he seems to have come from very little to create a great career for himself, very inspirational. I would also recommend Matilda the Musical to anyone – one of the most creative musicals in the West End at the moment.

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