Theatre’s Double Standard

I am doing a Masters in Playwriting. Ergo, I must also go and see plays. So I look down the list of plays to book, and click on the many theatre sites to get my tickets through and – hang on, what’s this?

Unemployed/Student Standby* £10 tickets on the day of the performance after midday”.

Indicative of the kind of audiences the theatres in question want, right?

It’s not the only demographic that comes with a proviso, but a wild guess presumes this is quite a commonly practiced thing that, until now, I was oblivious too. And of course I would be. Until now, tickets at the more expensive theatres have been invariably bought by someone other than myself; why would I need to know? Weirder for me, I wrote this long before it was ever discussed in class. Now that I am in class, I see it is part of the theory of audience-reception, most notably explored by Marvin Carlson.

Ok, I find that weird.

It’s been a while since I was last annoyed about theatres and their relationship with their audiences, however, I am once again reminded of the irritation I vented into the first post I ever wrote on this blog approximately ten months ago.

In that post I proposed a rethink of audience engagement, the most obvious way being through ticket prices versus value for money. Supposedly kids my age, who are also theatre students, are targeted. I still firmly believe you express a lot about the audiences you want through the prices you charge. How you can expect a student, let alone a group of them, to come to your show when a £15 ticket could be put to much better use (food/rent) I have no idea.

Fundamentally, there are a lot of things out there that economically make zero sense whatsoever. If things are cheaper, more people will buy. Granted, I thoroughly despise the monetary system, and the above motto becomes abused to increase profit. But as it is the world we inhabit, then knowing the enemy is half the battle. Or something.

It effectively taints the entire event in question. Cinema is an example of the audience experience gone wrong, and it has managed to seep into the bigger theatres. It makes you feel unwanted and exploited. By telling me that, as a student, I can only gain those pesky discounts by turning up on the day for a Standby ticket, the theatre may as well be saying

We’re only interested in selling for full-price, we don’t want your kind here.

Again, it brings the debate back to who can actually afford to go to the theatre these days versus who is targeted. And again, the younger kids lose. You can’t complain that shows are predominately playing to older generations if your incentives to bring in the younger ages are wrapped up in conditions. It reeks of double-standards.

Perhaps this reads as a bit of a non-story. I’m annoyed. The particular show in question was something I was looking forward to. I’ve rehearsed on its stage and played games in its auditorium. It is also partnered with another theatre was once somewhere I called home for many years, and therefore has a similar policy. Of course, a sob story isn’t really going to swing a discount my way, but I can still be annoyed.

And not buy their merchandise.

*Ooo, fight the system*

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