We all know that true artistry is risky. Audiences might not get it and, even if they do, may not be willing or able to afford the ever-spiralling ticket prices for a night out that could be sublime but might as easily be a major disappointment.

Even so, it seems fair to assume that when a youngster chooses a career in the theatre, he or she will have ambitions to excel. Whether they are a writer, director, an actor or somebody working behind the scenes, few would start out with the hope that they could eventually become a journeyman going through the motions and barely making a living.

What has nowadays become known as a perfect storm is threatening the theatrical community to such an extent that one sometimes wonders whether artistic excellence is now a secondary or tertiary consideration for many in the industry.

It hardly needs repeating that the country is in recession, the cost of living is out of control, Arts Council England is cutting funding wherever possible, angels and other sponsors are harder to find and, to add insult to injury as reported last week, it is also seeking to censor theatre makers and other leaders of the cultural community. The most obvious manifestation has been seen in reports that the Royal Court is in such a bad way that its legendary New Writers Programme is under threat of closure.

Where Stanislavsky and many more recent imitators had the opportunity to rehearse and hone productions with large casts for months at a time, today’s directors in this country and most others will be fighting conflicting demands. Some of the performers may have other commitments, whether on film sets or in fast food outlets makes little difference. Rehearsal space costs money as do artistic contributors, and therefore rehearsal time may be cut, while theatres themselves are also becoming more expensive, due to rapid rises in the costs of energy and staff as well as inflation more generally.

In addition, the best practitioners are often snapped up by TV and film production companies, meaning that their appearances in the theatre sector are, at best, few and far between and in many cases non-existent.

As a result, there has been an inevitable trend towards “safe” programming. Why take the chance of finding a theatre half-full for a brave new work by a young playwright when, regardless of their lack of artistic merit, there are hackneyed but much-loved comedies and musicals that are bound to pull in punters?

The West End has also seen a proliferation of solo performances by TV and film favourites, some of which will undoubtedly have been beautifully produced but don’t necessarily aspire to all achieve that zenith of artistic excellence.

Ultimately, if this trend continues, then the purpose of theatre might come into question. Live performance is always special, but one has to wonder whether audiences will eventually tire of seeing what are effectively imitations of TV and film, when they could watch the real thing at a fraction of the cost.

Even with all of these constraints, there can be no question that many theatre people still seek to achieve the goal of making exceptional work, often on a shoestring. This should give us hope for the future, but unless producers can find new ways of funding the industry, those plucky folk might also eventually feel obliged either to give up, dumb down, succumb to the blandishments of TV and film or pull back from the exciting stuff in favour of pantos and musicals.

You have to hope that we are currently at the bottom of one of those boom-and-bust cycles that have almost certainly impacted the cultural community since Shakespeare’s time or before and very soon theatre will recover.

That recovery might require a change of government, perhaps new tax incentives for investment, a rethink at Arts Council England or simply the arrival of a draft of wonderful new plays which invigorate the theatrical community and inspire others to follow suit.