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Mercury producer: touring shows ‘short-changing audiences’

Mercury Theatre producer Tracey Childs Mercury Theatre producer Tracey Childs
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Independent producers are short-changing audiences by spending less on the production values of touring shows, a leading regional producer has claimed.

Tracey Childs, producer at the Mercury Theatre in Colchester, also voiced concerns that producers seeking a venue would overlook mid-scale receiving houses inflexible with their box-office split and business models.

Speaking at UK Theatre’s Touring Symposium, Childs discussed the Mercury’s upcoming tour of Clybourne Park, and said she had experienced difficulty making compromises with some of the other venues in the schedule.

Claiming her main priority was “insulating the Mercury from any risk”, Childs said several venues were happy to make adjustments to their receiving model to “help protect the show” and to allow producers to take home a larger box-office share than usual.

However, she added: “Other venues stuck to: ‘This is the [only] split that we can offer you and this is our exorbitant brochure cost’.”

The producer acknowledged the priority for many venues was to “balance the books”, but expressed fears that “so many in mid-scale touring will [as a result] be offered fewer productions by fewer producers”.

She went on: “Some of the those producers are choosing to make their sums add up by cutting back on their production values. And actually, that’s not helping anyone – it means all our audiences leave feeling short-changed.”

But Childs also expressed empathy for producers slashing their spend on productions, adding: “I do understand: it’s perfectly possible in this business to make a killing, but it is very, very hard to make a living.”

Earlier at the event, she revealed that the theatre’s production of End of the Rainbow, which played to 93% capacity at the Mercury, was “struggling to find an audience” on tour.

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