Best of British: 60 things that make Britain great

Imagine you're cut off in a far-off land. What longings would be uppermost in your mind? Here we celebrate those aspects of life that make our islands distinct and beguiling.

37. Theatre

Last Days of Troy

Perhaps Terrence Mann had it right when he said: ‘Movies will make you famous, television will make you rich, but theatre will make you good.’ We can be rightly proud of the rich heritage of our stage—the Americans may be astonished at how willingly British actors will exchange a lucrative film job for the chance to tread the boards in the West End, but few other things can bring them so much professional pride and joy. And that transmits to audiences: London’s theatres saw their biggest audiences ever in 2013. Our appetite to be transported to another world as the curtain goes up remains undiminished and, 400 years after his death, Shakespeare’s work is as powerful and popular as ever. Without it, our culture and our language would be all the poorer.

‘All the world’s a stage,/And all the men and women merely players’
(As You Like It, William Shakespeare)

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