Theatre critic should turn his attention to state of our cinemas

IAM sure that like me, many of your readers are heartily sick of the constant and repetitive diatribes from David Reed with his obsession over the siting and building of the new Hampstead Theatre. He has had nothing new to say about it since he first star

IAM sure that like me, many of your readers are heartily sick of the constant and repetitive diatribes from David Reed with his obsession over the siting and building of the new Hampstead Theatre.

He has had nothing new to say about it since he first started writing several years ago and most of his allegations are either biased, exaggerated or untrue. Whatever the view of the planning permission given for it - and I disagree with him - it is now there, and very successful despite all he is trying to do to decry it.

However true James Roose-Evans comments may be, it is hardly practicable now to run the theatre with a large proportion of volunteers as opposed to paid staff, and the facilities it offers both to the theatre-going public and schools and young people are excellent.

His sneering comments about the luvvie crowd are totally misplaced and wildly untrue. Many playgoers including myself live within less that a mile of the theatre and it puts on excellent plays to a very high standard acknowledged nationally, has superb sightlines and is very far from being empty as he tries to pretend, even during the day. Just try booking tickets for their shows.


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Sour grapes can be a very distorting process. As for the destruction of the alleged 'park', that is also a very sick joke. The former scruffy, unkempt patch of grass and graffiti-ridden football pitch are not my idea of a park and there is no doubt that the water feature he sneers at and the surrounding grassed area and fenced-off children's playground are tremendously popular, as witness the number of young mums and kids playing, paddling and just enjoying the open space in good weather.

The adjacent sports centre has a terrific range of facilities which weren't there before and are again tremendously popular.

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As a professional journalist Mr Reed would be better occupied on a new and positive campaign - to bring some sense and reason into local picture house managements.

Since the Everyman in Hampstead and the Romain Hart 'Screen' chain were regrettably sold, they have all been, or are being, stripped out and tarted up by their new management to provide an 'experience' which a large proportion - particularly the older ones - do not want. We just want to go to the pictures at a reasonable price. Admissions now start at �10 and go upwards. Many people including myself no longer go there and bitterly resent the loss of a decent civilised cinema without the popcorn.

The Belsize Park Screen used to be the alternative to the overpriced Everyman, but now is in the chain as are the former Screens at Baker Street and On The Green (Islington).

The Swiss Cottage Odeon even offers concessions on Fridays and Saturdays for around �5 or �6, like the Phoenix at East Finchley - but that is a very awkward journey. But why has the Odeon stopped advertising in the local press?

Try to get through on their advertised phone line to find information on programmes and times and one wastes at least five minutes at 10p per minute listening to recorded messages extolling their booking service and special offers, even before being asked the name of the cinema one is enquiring about.

And note Barry Fox's comments (H&H letters December 10) about the Finchley Road Vug. Mr Reed, please use your skills for these problems and stop boring us with your obsessive paranoia about the theatre.

JOHN STRATTON

Thurlow Road, NW3

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