@westendproducer the 9-5 job for Londoners is slowly becoming extinct. With this in mind & ppl working later, is there a potential for theatres to show 8/ 8.30 shows once or twice a week for those who can’t clock off at 5/6pm. Theatre isn’t just for tourists!
— Mark Rannoch (@MarkRannoch) October 23, 2018
My dear, I think that’s a jolly good idea. Theatre has to move with the times and many people don’t work conventional hours anymore. But as well as shows that start later – there could be ones that start earlier – say 6pm or 6.30pm (for people who do shift work, or those that live far from London and have trains to catch).
Maybe there should be two nights of 7.30pm starts, two at 8.30pm, and two at 6.30pm? I know it would cause some upset in Theatreland, as it would involve changing people’s call times and mean some people missing Emmerdale – but the variety sounds rather appealing.
As well as making it more accessible for the public, it would allow those working in shows at least two nights a week when they can be in the pub quicker. But, of course, a big change like this would need to be trialled to see if it were successful.
I recall the concern and outrage when the idea of Sunday shows was first touted, with many people saying it was unfair to performers with families (I agree with this). But it has now become commonplace, and Sunday performances for some shows sell very well. It’s about getting the balance right and making sure that a new timetable fits the paying public as well as the theatre workers.
Another thought is to have two shows daily – one starting at 5pm and another at 8pm (as well as regular matinee days), resulting in those working on shows having more days off. For example, a regular theatre production does eight performances a week – six evening and two matinee, giving workers one day off (usually Sunday or Monday). But, what if there were two shows a day on Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday (still resulting in eight shows) – and the rest of the week was off?
I’m sure many actors would be very pleased with this arrangement, as would us producers if they sold as well as (or better than) normal.
Many productions and companies are now bravely embracing change with site-specific productions, audience interaction and immersive dining experiences. It is exciting to see the genre challenged. But this bravery needs to be extended to regular theatres. And while plays and productions themselves are often bold and new, the traditions they follow and venues they play in stay the same.
Of course, big money is involved, and we don’t want to lose out on takings – but who knows what ideas may work? A 10.30am performance of Miss Saigon may sound absurd, but it may be a rousing success. After all, London is, now more than ever, a 24-hour city.
• Morning theatre (croissant and coffee while watching Shakespeare).
• Productions with an option to watch half one night, and half another night (for those with short attention spans).
• Lunchtime shows for city workers on extra-long lunch breaks, bored tourists or pissed politicians.
• Occasional midnight matinees (with free drinks, snacks and condoms).
Send questions to your dear agony aunt via Twitter @westendproducer