Yesterday I spent an hour and a half constantly pressing the refresh button on the Almeida Theatre’s website in order to load their online booking system for Headlong theatre’s musical adaptation of American Psycho. I am not angry that their systems struggled to bear the strain of the amount of people wanting tickets, nor that their box office phone systems completely shut down. No, I am angry that so often nowadays you see half the tickets for something bought in advance by those entitled to ‘Priority Booking’ before tickets are released to us poor general public.
I think it’s great, it truly is, that there are so many people wanting to see such shows – although I feel its popularity may well have something to do with the celebrity casting of Matt Smith as the lead. What I don’t like is the whole exclusivity thing and what is causing it to happen – the screamingly ridiculous theatrical economy we have built for ourselves. Although, to be honest, if all we have to model this on is the general economy in Britain then what could we expect? The only outcome was going to be a system built to accommodate the rich.
Theatre companies, generally as far as I see it, have no choice but to create membership schemes in order to financially support themselves. It is, on the face of it, a sensible thing to do I just wonder whether it’s the right thing? I know a lot of these memberships are inexpensive on the face of it (a Headlong membership costs £15 a year) I could afford it – but I couldn’t afford a membership to every company I’d like to ensure I get tickets to. I’m not blaming the companies for doing it, if I was successful enough for people to want to be members of my company I’d probably set it up because I would want/need the money.
The issue at the heart of it all is, as usual, the systems set up for funding and supporting theatre and the position theatre holds in our society. I maintain that it should not be something solely for the privileged to enjoy, whilst acknowledging that I would probably be one of the ‘privileged’ members were I in such a financial position; the solution isn’t easy.