Acclaimed British playwright SIR Alan Ayckbourn has launched a stinging attack on Hollywood stars including Madonna, David Schwimmer and Matt Damon for damaging the reputation of UK theatre.
The 67-year-old dramatist fears young homegrown talents are being sidelined in castings in favour of bigger stars whose names can pull in more crowds.
Schwimmer received tepid reviews for his role in Some Girls at the Gielgud Theatre in 2005, while both Damon and Madonna were widely criticised for London stage appearances they made in 2002.
Ayckbourn says, "What is happening is that the theatre is being stuffed with the stars' fans. What they experience in the theatre is a poor performance, and they go out profoundly disappointed and disenchanted. That is another blow for the theatre. You've emptied the theatre for a whole load of people who will never go there again.
"We have tremendous talent in this country. Young actors have never been better, but they are fed up with seeing their jobs whipped away by people who've chanced by a TV camera or stood in a field taking off their clothes."
The Hollywood trend for appearing on the London stage seems destined to continue - former Miami Vice star Don Johnson has just joined the cast of Guys and Dolls in the West End.