INTERVIEW WITH SIR STEPHEN WALEY-COHEN
Sir Stephen has been a theatre owner and manager since 1984 when he was Joint Chief Executive of Maybox Group which acquired and managed the Albery, Criterion, Donmar Warehouse, Piccadilly, Whitehall and Wyndham’s Theatres, as well as developing the first British-owned multiplex cinema. Maybox was sold in 1989, in which year he became Director of the Victoria Palace Theatre. Sir Stephen became the producer of The Mousetrap in 1994. Since then he has also taken on the management of the St. Martin’s Theatre as well as the Vaudeville from 1995-2002 and the Savoy from 1997-2005. In April 2007 Sir Stephen purchased the Ambassadors Theatre, the sister theatre to the St. Martin’s and the original home of The Mousetrap for the first 21 years of its run. Before entering the theatre business Sir Stephen was a financial journalist and a founder director of Euromoney Publications. Sir Stephen was President of the Society of London Theatre from 2002-2005; and he was a Trustee of The Theatres Trust 1998-2004. In 2007 Sir Stephen became Chairman of RADA, The Royal Academy of Dramatic Art.
At the moment you are…
I own and manage The Ambassadors Theatre, where STOMP continues its long London run, and manage the St Martin’s Theatre next door where Agatha Christie’s The Mousetrap is now in its 63rd year (although the first 21 were in The Ambassadors, long before I became involved). And I am responsible for The Mousetrap in London, on its UK tour, and all its many licensed productions worldwide. All the management responsibility is shared with my colleague Andrew Mills. We sold the Victoria Palace Theatre last year, and moved to offices in Garrick Street, much more convenient and central.
I am also:
Chairman of Council at RADA, one of the world’s leading drama schools, teaching their craft and skills to actors and technicians;
Chairman of Mousetrap Theatre Projects, now the leading West End theatre education charity which gives disadvantaged youngsters the opportunity to experience live theatre, 12,000 of them last year, which they would not otherwise have. I started it eighteen years ago ‘to give something back’, and it now has the support of SOLT and every theatre owner and producer;
Chairman of Acting For Others, the umbrella fund-raising charity of which 15 welfare charities are members, providing help to theatre workers – performers, creatives, backstage, front of house – when they need it;
Chairman of the Garrick Charitable Trust, which makes modest grants to theatre, dance, music and literature.
As well as being on the Board of Stage One.
What does Stage One mean to you?
Stage One plays a very important role in guiding and supporting the coming generation of theatre producers. Its courses, bursaries and apprenticeships, and financial support for new productions is vital in ensuring that those brave people understand what they need to make a success of producing, have support from experienced practitioners, as well as financial benefits. I support it through the voluntary levy, which most theatres and producers do, giving it the value of a few seats each week.
Last show you saw and loved?
I’m going to choose several: Dead Sheep at the Park Theatre; Bad Jews at the St James’s Theatre; The Producers on tour; best of all was the RADA student production of As You Like It.
What are you looking forward to in 2015?
My daughter Tamsin’s classical music performances at The Tricycle Theatre in June, one inspired by their production of The Father and the other by their production of Verdi’s La Traviata.
The Kenneth Branagh season at The Garrick Theatre – he’s a RADA graduate, and I think there will be many other RADA alumni in the shows.
The Mousetrap starting its 64th year!
What's the best piece of advice you’ve been given?
Again, I’m going to mention a few:
Choose your shows because you believe in them, not just because you think they are commercial.
The running cost of a production is more important than its capital cost.
Nobody should get into trouble putting on a show, it’s not taking it off when you should that can lead to disaster.
Make a different mistake next time.