Lisbon’s Theatre Problem

“On the surface, Lisbon seems to support a healthy plethora of venues – from the huge neoclassical Teatro Nacional on the commercial Rossio square to funky, hilltop cafe theatres such as Teatro Taborda – and companies, from established names such as Teatro Cornucopia, co-founded by Melo, to bands of kids performing experimental works in the grounds of mental hospitals. However, theatre here is afflicted by one overwhelming, trenchant problem: a lack of audiences. At the country’s National Theatre – a sumptuous auditorium seating 500, where I witnessed Titus Andronicus playing to a crowd of 120 – a paltry 25% house is regarded as a resounding, sell-out smash hit. Shows in the city are regularly cancelled when theatregoers fail to materialise.”