Dickinson College Humanities Program in Norwich

Theatre in England (Don’t forget to use a posh accent when saying “thee-atah”)

September 21, 2010 · 1 Comment

There’s a crazy wide variety of theatres in London, more than I’ve ever experienced in one place before. Sure, it’s a little bit annoying to stand up for 3 hours while watching a play, but when am I going to have the experience to lean on the stage of a theatre, except when I’m at the Globe? And when am I going to get to see big name shows like Les Mis and Wicked one night and brand new shows like Deathtrap and Bedlam the next?

Theatre is so different here than in the US. In the States, theatre is very elitist. Tickets are so expensive that it’s hard for the medium to be accessible to everyone. Here, because the tickets are cheaper, it’s much easier for everyone to go out to the theatre much more frequently. We showed up yesterday morning and got 25 pound front row seats for Deathtrap. We were so close we could see Jonathon Groff spit (although I’m fairly certain everyone could see that). Because people can get such cheap tickets so frequently, many people- of many different social and economic backgrounds- are all so accustomed to going to the theatre. This results in the delightful traditions we witnessed at places like the Royal Albert Hall; symphony-goers starting a slow clap during intermission and coughing loudly between movements and the like.

To read a little more about these traditions, check out this site: http://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/classical/features/how-the-proms-turned-populist-without-offending-the-purists-2040031.html.

Part of the reason that theatre here is so accessible is that the UK makes an effort to get people out to the theatre. Right now there is program running called A Night Less Ordinary, which offers free tickets for over 200 of the subsidized theatres in England to residents under the age of 26 (http://www.ukstudentlife.com/Life/Entertainment/Theatre/Tickets.htm). It’s amazing to me that the government would offer free theatre tickets. In the states, that would be unheard of.

Here, theatre is a bit of an equalizer. A college student like myself can pay 15 pounds (or, in our case, have the school pay our 15 pounds) to go to the National Theatre and sit 10 seats away from Sir Ian McKellen (true story, folks)! And if you don’t mind sitting in the back row of the Apollo Victoria or the Barbican, you’ll end up paying as much as you might pay for a mediocre dinner to go see a West End show.

The accessibility of the theatre seems to foster a love of the theatre in this country. To me, government subsidized tickets for young people make perfect sense. Get ‘em hooked, and they’ll keep coming back for more, something that is apparent when you look at the audiences here. Every show is practically packed, at shows that have been running for 2 months and ones that have been running for 20 years.

And, did I mention how fun it is to meet the actors after the low-priced performances?:

Not too shabby, eh?

Categories: 2010 Jessica

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