Your front page article on October 31 described how venues and companies are exploring paperless ticketing options. While we welcome this response to the climate crisis in which we are operating, it is important to stress that this must always be just one option alongside others.
NHS Digital recognises that digital inclusion is affected by three key factors: the opportunity to develop digital skills, easy access to the internet, and the way in which services are designed. They say that “people with a disability are 35% less likely to have essential digital skills for life”.
Disabled people are less likely than non-disabled people to live in a household with a broadband connection and, with library closures and the removal of computers from the libraries that survive, accessing the web is becoming more difficult. A 2017 paper in the Journal of Psychosocial Research on Cyberspace detailed the results of a survey in EU member states and found “a headline disability equality gap of more than 20 percentage points (52.2% compared with a rate of 73.6% for non-disabled people)”.
We need to be very careful to ensure that non-digital options are still on offer so as not to further exclude disabled people from our auditoriums.
Director for change, Ramps on the Moon
Nick Smurthwaite’s article mentions that Covent Garden had the earliest sanitary arrangements in 1732.
The provinces may have been slow to catch up, as the Todmorden and District News reported that the local medical officer inspected the new Hippodrome in January 1909, four months after opening, and found there was no toilet provision on the ground floor and insufficient accommodation in the gallery.
On the subject of peep holes, as a boy in the 1940s, I recall a couple of flaps in the front tabs at Birmingham Theatre Royal, through which eyes from the other side would assess the house.
The sentence about lack of ventilation or temperature control reminded me of many happy visits to the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, so perhaps not much has changed. I have not yet been hit by orange peel, though.
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I recently attended a terrific performance of Fiddler on the Roof at the West End’s Playhouse Theatre, but, apart from the excellent Maria Friedman and Anita Dobson, I am at a loss to know who was in the cast as the venue had run out of programmes. When I asked for a cast list, I was directed to a corner of the foyer where a framed cast list was on display, with various amendments for understudies.
This is not good enough. Writing from experience as a former theatre manager, when the programme stock was running low towards the end of a show’s run, I would print a cast list to give to audience members, ensuring that front-of-house staff had a supply to give to all patrons. This provided a free alternative to the diminishing stock of programmes, allowing some to be kept in reserve if a patron insisted on buying one. The audience had the relevant information to hand while seated in the auditorium, which I feel to be a vitally important part of a theatre visit.
This, sadly, is not a principle shared by the management of the Playhouse – not only did I not know who the cast members were, but also which understudies were playing which parts. As far as I am concerned, any understudy playing a part should be given credit for their performance. During my working life, when an understudy was playing, I always ensured that the programmes included a slip with this information and an onstage announcement was made at the start of the performance, crediting the artist for that performance. Again, this principle appears to have bypassed the Playhouse management.
When I attempted to mention this to staff after the show, I received nothing but a look of blank indifference – it was not clear whether the person I spoke to had the slightest notion what I was talking about.
Having paid more than £90 for my ticket, I feel the price should include the basic services of the theatre, which appear to be unknown quantities to the management of the Playhouse.
Former West End theatre manager
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I have no problem with paying the full price at a preview. The costs to the producer and the theatre are the same as for other performances – they don’t go down.
If everything is right from day one, then what’s the justification for previews? Charging full-price is saying: ‘This is the show.’ Having a preview is saying: ‘We’re still rehearsing, but we’d like an audience.’ The two are, and should be, mutually exclusive, hence reduced prices for previews.
Also, if producers are charging top whack from day one, forget about press night. It should be open season to reviewers. If producers don’t like that, they shouldn’t charge full price for previews.
“The goal was never Broadway. The people I worship inside of the canon have never been on Broadway. Or, if they were, it was at a time when Broadway had a lot of risk-taking and daring writing happening. Broadway during the 1960s and 1970s was really wild. The 1990s changed who we thought Broadway was for.” – Playwright Jeremy O Harris on Slave Play (Guardian)
“What we need is less gush and more grit, less huckstering and more hard fact, if the public is not to think that a night out in the West End is a potential hazard to life and limb.” – Critic Michael Billington (Guardian)
“I feel like I have a whole separate career in the theatre and playing parts that I probably wouldn’t get in TV and movies, and I can’t really figure out why that is. I’ve played much more empathetic, sincere, sexy, vulnerable people in the theatre.Maybe it’s being seen from far away.” – Actor Jane Krakowski (Independent)
“If the police came to my show, or some authority, and said you can no longer do that bit, then I think we’ve got a problem with freedom of speech. But that hasn’t happened. I don’t think it’s happened to anybody… I’m not stopped from saying anything that I want to say.” – Comedian Romesh Ranganathan (Telegraph)
“This brand new world [of stardom] was coming at me extremely fast, and I was feeling a lot of things that needed sorting and understanding, and I really did feel I needed some answers. Psychoanalysis helped me stick to essentials, and I was very fortunate to have a very wise man who helped enormously. Thank God for it, in my case.” – Actor Julie Andrews (Telegraph)
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