I have been fortunate enough to visit many theatres, and see many shows, in all sorts of spaces over the years. Yet, not once have I been able to enjoy a vegan version of the quintessential interval treat: ice cream.
Veganism is on the rise. In 2016, an Ipsos Mori poll found the number of people on a plant-based diet had risen by more than 360% to 542,000 and is now over 600,000, more than 1% of the population. It seems silly for playhouses not to cater to this fast-growing market. Why not offer the free-from-dairy alternative?
The UK is now the world leader in plant-based food launches, according to the Vegan Society. One in six food products launched in the country are now animal free. Mainstream supermarkets’ ‘free from’ sections are growing too, as demand increases. Waitrose, for example, has a dedicated vegan section in more than 130 shops.
Chefs like Yotam Ottolenghi, restaurant chains including Zizzis and Wagamama, and high-street clothing stores like Urban Outfitters and Office all cater to vegan customers. There are social media ‘influencers’ who have also made their name promoting a vegan lifestyle and recipes, and have built loyal followings.
Surely, if Greggs can offer vegan sausage rolls – and often sells out as quickly as it can make them – then theatres can follow.
‘Should it cater to vegans, those with little interest previously may be tempted to look favourably on a theatre reaching out to them’
It is also likely, though admittedly there is no available research, that the percentage of vegans will be higher among a liberal, open-minded theatre audience than the figure for the country as a whole.
For a progressive theatre willing to take a shot, it could even deliver a new audience. Should it cater to vegans, those with little interest previously may be tempted to look favourably on an institution reaching out to them.
January marks the latest annual Veganuary challenge and 300,000 have pledged to ditch some animal-based food as a result. Given that most participants are 18 to 35-year-olds, reaching out could bring in that much-sought-after demographic. This comes at a time when young audiences are being hit as ticket prices, certainly in the West End, rise and school trips decline.
The environmental impact shouldn’t be overlooked. Many venues are old, with antiquated systems that use environmentally damaging resources to maintain: lighting, electrical, heating – as well as the raw materials for the sets and costumes – so maybe an easy way to offset this is to promote the vegan lifestyle through their choice of snacks. Given that experts suggest that eating red meat has a worse carbon footprint than driving a car, backing a vegan lifestyle among their patrons is surely one way to offset their own emissions.
The tradition of the interval ice cream will still be respected, providing a vegan alternative is just a new take on an old classic – like any of the updated Shakespeare productions playing across the country at any one time.
Lauren McCrostie is an actor and writer in London, whose film work includes Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children