Ticket prices should attract, not deter, new audiences (your views, April 19)
I’ve only just caught up with the debate on seat prices and access (‘Think West End tickets are overpriced? Think again’, March 29). But I’d like to pick up on Richard Howle’s comments in his (fictional) pricing example that “upper circle seats at £35 will prove popular” while £15 tickets are simply “for those marketing messages” – which sounds a bit like tokenism in this context.
In my marketing career I’ve priced many houses. Although they were mainly in subsidised venues, that doesn’t mean I don’t recognise commercial pressures. But I also remember, as a young theatregoer, being able to see Peter Brook’s groundbreaking Midsummer Night’s Dream from the front stalls at the Aldwych Theatre (then the Royal Shakespeare Company’s London home) because the first three rows were at bottom price, not top. I could never have had this experience otherwise and it encouraged me to see many more shows. Of course the RSC is a funded organisation, but the policy enabled thousands of young people to enjoy a great production without being banished to the balcony – and it helped build a future audience of paying customers.
Even top-price customers suffer when sold rear stalls seats for the same cost as they’d pay for the superior experience – none of this encourages repeat purchases
While budget-conscious West End audiences are relegated to worse seats (and £35 is hardly a cheap entry rate), too often even top-price customers suffer when sold rear stalls seats, far from the stage and generally under an oppressive overhang, for the same cost as they’d pay for the superior experience in, say, row E or F. None of this encourages repeat purchases.
Commercial managements have belatedly realised they need to invest in the fabric of their buildings to keep audiences from voting with their feet. If producers can cash in on premium seats so easily, isn’t it time to break with short-termism and see that innovative seat pricing at the lower end of the scale could be an equally valuable investment in future audiences?
Former head of marketing, National Theatre
Tricycle rename is misguided
As the architect of the original Tricycle Theatre and a board member for more than 12 years, I was dismayed to learn of the name change to Kiln Theatre (News, April 12).
I suppose the new management wishes to make a point about fresh beginnings but, having destroyed the old auditorium, which was admired around the world, to reject the proud legacy of the theatre’s many achievements over the last 38 years is distinctly ungracious. The Tricycle or ‘Trike’ stood for something, whereas ‘Kiln’ simply sounds overcooked.
Partner, Foster Wilson Architects
Following West End Producer’s column on famous theatrical superstitions (April 5, p24), I’d add not whistling in the dressing room. The offender has to leave the room, slam the door, turn around, swear loudly and be invited back in by those they share the dressing room with.
Another superstition, banning knitting in the wings, has a more practical source. Any actor running off stage into the darkness of the wings would hardly wish to be stabbed by a cast member doing their knitting.
Nigel P Herbert
I have heard that the so-called ‘Macbeth curse’ came from the days of the actor-managers’ low-budget national tours. A troupe would set out with a repertoire of plays, but when the audiences started to drop and money became tight, they would put on Macbeth, which was a sure-fire winner. If you have an exhausted cast and crew, low on morale and money, accidents will happen, which is why statistically more things went wrong during a Macbeth production than any other – hence the bad reputation.
In fact, a lot of theatrical superstition equates to early health-and-safety regulation: making someone believe evil will get them when they whistle on stage is far more effective than hanging a notice in the green room.
‘Break a leg’ also referred to the days of vaudeville when acts were hired but with no guarantee of going on stage to do their act. If they didn’t get past the legs and on to the stage, they didn’t get paid. So people said “Break a leg” to wish them luck in getting paid.
Rosemary di Bernado
I love the phrase “Chookas”, which Australian performers use to wish each other good luck.
It comes from the fact that if a show was a success, they could afford to buy a chicken to eat or, as we say in Australia, a ‘chook’.
Professionals still love playing
Anthony Smith (‘Adult amdram deserves more’, Letters, April 5), seems to believe that only amateurs “are performing music for the love of it’’, while professionals are playing for financial gain.
This is demeaning nonsense. Does he really think that professional musicians, dancers and actors are only performing for the money?
I do not know what standard he achieves with his amateurs, but if he really believes that professionals are able to perform and keep up the standard of performance demanded by the paying public, day after day, year after year, and experience the highs of being in work alongside the lows of not, without the sheer love of their art, then I fear he knows very little about professional performance.
Quotes of the week
“Theatre is just an art form that got stuck. There are lots of invisible gatekeepers. They are very alive, and they’ve got very sharp teeth. Sometimes the gatekeepers are in the organisations, sometimes they’re the critics, sometimes they’re the audience.” Director Katie Mitchell (New York Times)
“In my business, unfortunately, I would say ambition [is more important than talent]. It depends how far you want to go but if you want to get to the top of the ladder as an actor, you’ve got to have that focus. But if you want to be happy and fulfilled as an actor, you have to listen to your talent. All I ever want is for people to say I’ve got some.” Maxine Peake (Financial Times)
“I met up with Marianne [Elliott] and we were discussing the character that I’m going to play and she said that she eats a brownie, and my eyes lit up. That was it, I was sold. Yep, absolutely. There’s a baked item in the show.” Presenter and actor Mel Giedroyc on why she joined Company the musical (speaking at the launch of Company at Joe Allen in London)
“Corruption in society never seems to go out of style. Every once in a while, it becomes more obvious than not. And – God – just when I thought ‘Is Chicago still going to be pertinent?’, we have our lovely president and everything that comes with him. All of a sudden, it feels brand new again. Isn’t that awful?” Chicago creator John Kander (Guardian)
“I would not have had my career if I hadn’t had my husband, who was the main childcarer. I don’t get paid enough, I never got paid enough, and my job is around the clock, it’s not just the rehearsals but it’s the prep, the casting and the design.” Director Marianne Elliott (speaking at the launch of Company at Joe Allen in London)
“I made a conscious decision after I did The Duchess of Malfi at the Old Vic [in 2012], when my daughter was six months old, to try doing more screen work. Certainly with stage, as I’m remembering, you don’t get to spend any time at home. With film, you might do three, four days a week, and they might not be full days. So that aspect of it was a consideration. But I also just wanted to try different kinds of working.” Actor Mark Bonnar (Guardian)