Archive for the Theatre Category

My latest musings for The Stage on the legacy of the National Theatre Travelex scheme

Posted in Theatre, Ticketing on October 4, 2018 by richardhowle

How the NT’s Travelex scheme launched a revolution across Theatreland

West End Theatre Ticket Prices

Posted in Theatre, Ticketing on March 29, 2018 by richardhowle

We hear a lot about how expensive theatre ticket prices are. In this article for The Stage I reveal how and why tickets are priced the way they are and breakdown the cost of a ticket. You may need to register to view the article (but it is free to do so)

 

Link: The Stage – Think West End tickets are overpriced? Why a breakdown of the costs proves they’re not a rip-off

Why Booking Fees Are Important

Posted in Theatre, Ticketing on January 10, 2015 by richardhowle

People just don’t get booking fees. They don’t understand why, having paid for their tickets, they then have to pay extra just for the privilege of buying them. No one likes them, no one wants to pay for them (me included) and the ticketing industry is really poor at explaining them. So why are they important?

Firstly, let’s talk about why they exist. When you buy a ticket to an event, the value of that ticket goes to the event organiser in order to pay for that event (venue hire, equipment hire, artist fees, advertising etc etc).The company that you are buying the ticket from doesn’t see any of that money. Sometimes there may be a little inside commission paid by the event organiser to the ticketing company but it is a nominal amount and is very rarely paid for live music events, So although you are paying your favourite ticketing company £100 for two tickets, the ticketing company is only acting as a middle man, passing that money on to the event organiser. The only money earned by the ticketing company is the booking fee.

And the ticketing companies need to earn money because, despite what some think, it does cost money to sell tickets. Whilst, from a consumer point of view, buying a ticket is usually a straightforward process (although the industry has more work to do to make it simpler), the technology behind that is very sophisticated. This is not the place to bore you with the intricacies of ticketing systems – but take my word for it, they are more complicated than they look; And with consumers demanding ever more developments to make it easier and more convenient to buy tickets (select your own seats, mobile ticketing, multiple payment methods, print at home tickets etc etc) ticketing systems are set to grow ever more complicated and that costs.

On top of the ticketing system costs there is the infrastructure surrounding them – IT support, hosting, backup, website etc etc. If there is one thing that ticket buyers hate more than booking fees, then it is when the system crashes and they can’t even buy the damn things in the first place. And then there are staffing costs – the people required to sell the tickets. And whilst it is true that significantly more tickets are now sold online than via the phone, the reduction in the number of people required to sell them hasn’t reduced in the same proportion. Booking lines have now become website support centres with people calling about bookings made online (usually when they have made a mistake) and, increasingly, customers are now turning to Twitter or Facebook with their queries. I remember at a recent conference Ticketmaster describing how they were taking one person a month off their phone team and putting them on the social media team such was the increase in online queries that needed a human to respond. The important thing to note here is that they were not reducing staffing numbers – only reallocating them.

So system costs, infrastructure costs, staff costs – it is all beginning to add up. Add into that VAT and business costs and suddenly we can see that there are real costs attached to selling tickets.  But that’s not all – in order for a ticketing company to compete in this world for (and no one likes a monopoly so there are multiple companies selling tickets) there are marketing and advertising costs and affiliate fees in order to ensure that they secure the sale ahead of one of their rivals. Ticketing companies spend a fortune with Google every month.  Finally, of course, ticketing companies are commercial enterprises – they have to make some profit, too.

So hopefully that goes some way to explaining why there are booking fees, but why are they so important? Essentially ticketing companies are no different to any other retailers. What I have just explained is simply the cost of sale which applies to any retail business. But when you go to a supermarket, for example, you don’t go to the checkout and get told that that your shopping comes to £100 and on top of that there will be £15 shopping fee.

Except that, in effect that is exactly what you have been charged*. The supermarket buys a product at the wholesale price (face value in ticketing terms) and sells it with a mark up (booking fee) at a retail price. The only difference between the ticketing company and the supermarket is that the ticketing company tells you what that mark up is, tells you how much you are paying the retailer.

*And actually, in reality that mark up is significantly higher at the supermarket. Whereas large ticketing companies will operate on margins (booking fees) of 10-15% the supermarkets will operate on margins of at least 40% but can go up to 70%, 80%, 90%+ on some products (because it is hidden we never truly know).

So why do ticketing companies declare their booking fees (margins), why not just hide them in the price like the supermarkets do? If consumers weren’t aware of them they wouldn’t get upset about them. And here we come to the crux of the matter – why booking fees are important.

If I want to buy a box of Kelloggs Cornflakes it doesn’t really matter where i buy it. If I buy it from Sainsbury’s, Tesco, Waitrose or my corner shop it is the same product – I know what I am getting and having a shopped around I know roughly what it is worth – yes it might be more expensive in my corner shop, but its just down the road and I am prepared to pay more for the convenience. But I am not being ripped off, I am making a choice to pay more and I am still getting the same product that I would have done if I had got in the car and driven to Tesco.

Lets just apply the same logic to buying an event ticket. My niece would like Justin Bieber tickets for her birthday (I’ve tried to discourage her but one just can’t compete with teenage hormones). Just like cornflakes there are a number of places that I can buy those tickets. Lets call them NiceTickets.Com, GoodTickets.com and DodgyTickets.com. I look on their very nice websites and I see the following prices:

NiceTickets.com: £75; GoodTickets.com £80 and DodgyTickets.com £77.

The first two ticketing companies have sold out so, despite their dubious name I will get my tickets from DodgyTickets.com, because although they are not the cheapest – they are around the same price as the others

But then I look in a bit more detail and i see that those prices include booking fees:

Nicetickets.com £75 (£70 face value +£5 booking fee); GoodTickets.com £80 (£70 face value + £10 booking fee); DodgyTickets.com £77 (£45 face value + £32 booking fee).

Hold on, £45? Why are those tickets so cheap compared to the others?

And suddenly, the difference between buying cornflakes and Justin Bieber tickets becomes abundantly clear. I will have the same eating experience no matter where I buy the flakes.It is always the same product. But my niece’s viewing experience of Bieber will be different depending on what tickets I buy. With 15,000 seats in the arena there are 15,000 different viewing experiences on offer. How on earth can I make a judgement as to which is going to be best? The way I do that is by looking at the face value price. The more I pay, the better the viewing experience.

If those ticketing companies hadn’t told me about the booking fee I would have had no way of judging that the view from the DodgyTickets.com tickets was significantly worse than the other tickets. In fact, because their price was similar I am likely to expect that the viewing experience would be similar.

So that is why booking fees are important, not their existence – but the fact that I know of their existence rather than them just being included in the overall price.

Now, obviously this is a very simplified illustration and I use it only to demonstrate the principle. I am certainly not suggesting that this is the perfect model for selling tickets or that there aren’t better solutions, nor that aren’t unjustifiable fees (like for print at home). I will examine these another time. But I do hope that it, at least explains why we have booking fees. Even if we don’t like or agree with them, the transparency that they provide makes the ticket buying process a much fairer one.

Ticketing and the cost of your entertainment

Posted in Theatre, Ticketing with tags , , , on January 26, 2014 by richardhowle

Seeing your favourite band, singer, play or actor is a very emotive thing. Buying a ticket to see them is not like buying another commodity, like a tin of beans. Making that ticket purchase allows you access to an event that will (hopefully) give you great pleasure and provide you with lifelong memories. It is no wonder that ticketing engenders such a passionate response in people.

Ticketing has been in the news once more this week with the BBC running a piece on high prices for popular shows on secondary sites such as Viagogo and Seatwave see the report here . This coincided with a parliamentary debate last week on secondary ticketing led by MP Sharon Hodgson who has crusaded against these sites for many years.

The sites in question provide a market place through which people can buy and sell tickets. The arguments against these sites are very familiar and, understandably, draw a lot of popular support. Far from being used by fans who have bought tickets and are then unable to use them, the main argument goes, they are being exploited by professional touts who buy up large amounts of inventory and use these sites to sell the tickets at vastly inflated prices, preventing “ordinary people” the opportunity to buy them at face value. I won’t rehash the whole debate here, but would encourage those interested to read the transcript of the debate, particularly the less often reported arguments against legislation in this area.

The only thing that I would say is that touting is as old as ticketing and that whenever demand outstrips supply there is always going to be a market for selling tickets at above face value. At least these sites provide a safe environment in which to trade rather than leaving innocent members of the public at the mercy of criminals. Speaking of criminals, talk in the debate about fraud was totally fatuous – as was pointed out, there is legislation already in existence to deal with fraud. But if the politicians insist of legislating in this area they are going to have to give some consideration as to how that legislation is to be enforced. During the years building up to the Olympics I spent a fair bit of time with police officers from Operation Podium who had a big remit concerning ticketing. They did an excellent job and won themselves a lot of friends and respect in the ticketing industry. However with all the resources that they had, they were only really able to scratch the surface of the criminal behaviour around ticketing. That operation has now been disbanded and it has once again become near impossible to get the police to engage in ticketing crime (they don’t have the resources) – adding more legislation into the mix is not going to make that situation any better.

I am not denying that secondary ticketing is a problem, however. It is one that damages the whole ticketing industry. Undoubtedly technology has made it much easier for touts to get hold of tickets on an industrial scale. It is up to us, as an industry, to make it harder for touts to operate and I believe that technology can help us. I noticed this story earlier in the week where Ticketmaster in the US have introduced paperless ticketing for the upcoming Miley Cyrus tour in effort to beat the scalpers (touts). Technology is moving on fast and as an industry we should be adopting that new technology to better improve the ticket buying process for our customers.

If it is not the secondary market or booking fees, then it is often the cost of the tickets themselves that upsets entertainment-goers. The finances of the entertainment industry are incredibly complicated and very difficult to explain to those not involved, but it is very expensive industry to run – as well as an extremely risky one. Yes, big returns can be made – but there is a higher chance of a big loss. Therefore I think this infographic, which featured on http://www.inforgraphicsshowcase.com makes interesting reading. I can’t personally vouch for the accuracy of the figures it contains, but I would suggest that the general principles are in the right ballpark.
The Cost of a Musical on Broadway Infographic - An Infographic from Infographics Showcase

Embedded from Infographics Showcase

The industry is not perfect, there is a lot we can do to make the process of seeing their favourite artists better for the ticket buying public. It is never going to be a painless process, getting hold of something that is hard to come by or spending a lot of money on an evening out is something that none of us like, but I know that there are plenty of people working in the entertainment industry who are determined to make it better

The Commitments in Town

Posted in Theatre, Ticketing with tags , on April 26, 2013 by richardhowle

On Tuesday we had the launch of a brand new musical (always an exciting event) – The Commitments. It is based on the 90’s film written by Roddy Doyle, who has also penned the musical.

There will be plenty of time to get excited about the prospect of this show, but I just wanted to highlight a little excitement from a ticketing point of view. Half Price Previews.

Preview pricing isn’t a new thing or uncommon thing, many shows do it. But usually the discount is a modest one, £5 or £10 off regular prices.

As Mark Shenton says in his blog today for The Stage

A genuine, upfront offer like this will not only help to get audiences in when they’re most needed to help shape the show itself, but also help in its promotion (assuming the show is good), which is to start the most crucial thing of all: word-of-mouth. It’s a win-win situation for audiences and producers alike.

The financial restraints of putting on a show often make a pricing policy like this cost prohibitive, so it is fantastic that the producers of this production have found a way of making it work.

And the early signs are really encouraging, tickets are flying out of the door and a fantastic foundation of sales is being built. Packed previews full of ticket buying fans will surely provide a fantastic launch pad for the whole run.
Watch this space, or better still – book you own half price tickets for The Commitments musical.

2012 Triumph

Posted in Theatre, Ticketing on February 9, 2013 by richardhowle

If you didn’t see it, this was my article published in this week’s edition of The Stage:

For those of us who work in theatre advertising and marketing, 2012 will be a year that we won’t forget – aside from what happened during that magical sporting festival.

As well as the Olympic and Paralympic Games we had the Queen’s Jubilee celebrations and one of the wettest summers since Noah applied for a pet passport.

For us, the planning began in 2011 and with so many different scenarios possible we didn’t so much have a Plan A and a Plan B but more of a Plan A-Z to cover every possible eventuality. No one knew what would happen.

As it turned out everything happened and we went through all of those plans and devised more – at the lowest points we quickly found ourselves rifling through Plans O,M and G. We launched new initiatives, found new sales channels and created new campaigns. It required cool heads and smart thinking, but we got through it.

Just how well we got through it was revealed by SOLT (Society of London Theatres) last week who announced that, against the odds, 2012 saw record breaking gross sales and a year-on-year (YOY) rise in attendances. The margin was only small, but considering the challenges it was our equivalent of winning five gold medals.

For me, the most revealing aspect of the numbers released last week was the average ticket price paid, which showed a YOY drop. This reflects the fact that, although we attracted more people to the theatre, we had to work much harder than ever before to reach out to them. Across the board shows engaged with promotions and discounted further than they have ever previously had to.

2012 was like a jam sandwich – a sticky mess in the middle with two thick bloomers either side. The beginning of the year saw amazing audience levels, with play attendance in particular helping to drive overall admissions. Then came the summer of despair, the low point being the final week of July – usually one of the best of the year – with many shows reporting YOY drops in attendance of up to 25%. But it quickly improved as people began to realise that the West End wasn’t the no go area that we had all been led to believe that it would be.

Then, as London 2012 became a triumph, we began to hear word of a phenomenon that gave us great heart. Our friends in the travel industry were reporting a massive upsurge in enquiries for London breaks. Domestic tourism was booming with bookings for the autumn surging. And then they came. With quality new product in the market, audience levels returned to the highs that we had seen in the first part of the year.

So what lies ahead for 2013? Well, advance sales are at record highs and, as well as all the favourites, there are some great new shows due to open – combined with very strong forecast figures from tourism bodies, this year looks set to be a blockbuster.

But we can’t rest on our laurels; we can’t just expect audiences to come along. With the economy showing little sign of recovery the fight for the leisure pound remains as tough as ever. Our world leading creative industry has to put on high quality product and we have to create high quality campaigns that will sell them.

We must also be aware that some of the tactics that we employed last year were for exceptional reasons and should guard against them becoming the norm. We need to be wary of training our audiences to wait for last minute discounts. Like the rest of the world, the costs associated with producing theatre are going up. With inflation rising, further falls in the average ticket price will become unsustainable. This shouldn’t preclude us, however, from making theatre accessible and developing audiences for the future.

We also need to be acutely aware that at the heart of the West End’s commercial success is work derived from the subsidised sector which is facing severe cuts in its funding. Money generated through ticket sales is going to become even more important in the creation of the productions of the future.

Despite the success of last year, 30% of seats went unsold. As an industry we need to continue to be more innovative and creative at finding more persuasive ways of attracting audiences. By embracing new technology, employing modern thinking, opening our minds to dynamic pricing (up AND down) and by giving ticket buyers the best experience, we can do this. We can encourage the person who comes twice a year to come three times; we can convert the person who doesn’t think that theatre is for them.

2012 was a triumphant year, but the success will count for nothing if we can’t build on its legacy. The capital had the world’s attention and many more people will experience the city and our theatre as a result. We need to show to all those new visitors who have been attracted by last year’s events exactly why London is one of the greatest cities on the planet, the home of the greatest theatre.

Upcoming in 2013

Posted in Theatre with tags , , , , , , , , on January 13, 2013 by richardhowle

One of the curses of my job is that I am frequently asked for recommendations as to what to see. This is always a real minefield, what is considered good can differ from person to person, that is what makes life so varied and interesting. Going to theatre can involve a serious outlay so making a recommendation brings with it great responsibility.

I am a great believer in that quality will out so a stock answer is always Billy Elliot, Jersey Boys, Matilda, War Horse and One Man Two Guvnors – there is enough variety in this selection for people to then make their own choices to suit their own tastes. I can take comfort in the knowledge that which ever one of these they choose they will enjoy their experience.

I have just realised that in writing this there is a huge mantrap ahead of me if I don’t mention all the great shows in the West End (The 39 Steps and Woman in Black have just sprung to mind). Oh well, publish and be damned, I say!

So what of 2013, what am I looking forward to this year? What are my recommendations for this year?

The first one I have already seen. It is an extraordinary, exciting, endorphin-raising, experiential piece of theatre. Created by the Argentinian team behind Del La Guarda, Fuertzabruta returns to London after a six year gap during which it has gone around the world. It is playing again at the Roundhouse which reopened with this production first time round and I am not sure if there has been a product there since that better fits this space. It is a show that is really difficult to describe other than how it makes you feel – joyful, inspired, alive – it is a cross between a spectacle and a rave. Get your tickets quick http://www.roundhouse.org.uk/fuerzabruta as it is only playing until 26th January. (Oh and don’t be upset when it says the tickets are “standing” they all are – that is part of the experience.)

Previewing from 5th Feb, A Chorus Line at the London Palladium is the production that many theatre aficionados are most looking forward to. It is a classic of musical theatre, breaking the mould when it first opened on Broadway where it set new standards and broke all the records, but hasn’t been seen in the West End since 1976. One of the main reasons for this is that there are only three London stages wide enough to fit the full cast. And what a stage, The London Palladium, an iconic building for an iconic production. Tickets at www.achoruslinelondon.com

Also breaking the mould is another musical from Broadway which I am really looking forward to. The Book of Mormon at the Prince of Wales theatre is outrageously funny. Be prepared to be shocked and to laugh a lot at this Tony award winning musical which deliciously lampoons (all) religion. If you liked Avenue Q, this is definitely the show for you. www.bookofmormonlondon.com

My final (and perhaps strongest) recommendation is for a play that I raved about on these pages when I saw it at the National a few months ago. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time is quite simply one of the best things I have ever seen. Funny, moving, brilliant staged and performed by a fantastic cast, it is transferring to the West End’s Apollo Theatre from 1st March. Based on the book by Mark Haddon it is about a 15 year old boy with Asperger’s Syndrome and his struggle to fit into the world. It is a beautiful piece of theatre that had me blubbing like Victoria Pendleton when I saw it. www.curiousonstage.com

Not theatre, but I do want to give a shout out for another upcoming in 2013, and that is my friend Chloe who is releasing her first album this year and is being tipped to be one of the new voices of the year. As a special treat here is a link to a sample from her first single – just remember you heard of her here first!

One final note – all the links I have out on here take you to the official websites where you can buy tickets safely. If you so buy tickets elsewhere, make sure you do it securely. Check to see if the agency you are buying from is a member of STAR (Society of Ticket Agents and Retailers) look out for the STAR logo and check that that is is legit on the STAR website

My 2012 review

Posted in Society, Theatre, Ticketing with tags , , on December 30, 2012 by richardhowle

Everywhere we look there are reviews of the year. So why not join them?

How will history reflect on 2012? Will it be a year to remember in twenty years time. How often do we reflect on 1992?

Well, of course, the outstanding feature of 2012 – the one that will mark it as a year to remember- is the Olympics. As everyone else is devoting hours of airtime and thousands of words to it I will keep my thoughts here brief and simply say that I thought it was terrific. It lived up to all my expectations and then some, proving all the doubters wrong. I was always a great supporter and had faith in our ability to deliver a great games – witness my blog post on 16 October 2010 here.
What I was particularly thrilled about, was the complete conversion of the doom- mongers and nay-sayers who ended up being some the biggest fans of the games (including my partner Paul). One of my favourite moments of the year was in the Olympic stadium as Mo Farrah picked up his second gold of the games in the 5,000 final and the whole place going ballistic. Paul and I hugged with tears streaming down our cheeks. As it died down the man next to Paul said “it’s great isn’t it?” and Paul responded through the tears with “yes, and I don’t even like sport”!

Professionally the Olympics provided some unique challenges in 2012. There is normally a pattern and flow to ticket sales in the West End based upon which we build our marketing and advertising campaigns – but this year the text books were thrown out of the window and we had to be creative and flexible in order to sell tickets in a challenging market. After a strong first quarter, sales fell away, particularly over what is normally the strongest time of the year, the summer and we had to work really hard to get sales. A good final autumn has given an early indication as to what we might expect for 2013 and has helped boost the overall numbers. When the final numbers for London theatre attendance in 2012 are released I expect them to be up on last year and there will be much comment about how the Olympics wasn’t as bad for theatre as everyone said. But closer inspection of the numbers will reveal that this was only achieved by more promotion and discounting as well as a lot of effort. One thing that is guaranteed is that those of us whose job it is to sell London theatre, to drive admissions won’t get any of the praise or plaudits for delivering against the odds. But I know how much work, imagination and passion it took to achieve those numbers. So from a professional point of view 2012 has been a tough, challenging, but rewarding year and I am very proud to work alongside some incredibly talented people.

Politically and socially 2012 has seen a continued move towards society being driven by moral outrage and panic. The scandals have been endless.This is led by a seemingly righteous media, but is in reality about selling newspapers. No institution or organisation is safe and every fault or failing is endlessly picked over until someone or something breaks or another, juicier story is found. The problem with this is that it hides the real issues of our time, the ones that have no right or wrong answers, but have a more profound effect on our society than what a cyclist in Downing Street did or didn’t say to a policeman. What about the recession, the plight or the poor, investment in enterprise, immigration, falling education standards, disenfranchised youth, our role in Europe the fate of Syria etc etc?

And finally personally, it has been another good year. The 30’s are a good decade, a time when you finally become confident and comfortable of who you are. This allows you to take on and succeed with new challenges – for me that meant producing my first play. Green Forms at the Tabard Theatre was a sell out,raised over £10,500 for cancer charity, Maggie’s and was a personal triumph for me, giving me a self belief and confidence that perhaps I didn’t have before. It also gave me the opportunity to work on a project with Paul whose vision and talent made the project an artistic success as well as financial one. It was great teamwork that helped strengthen our personal partnership. Last week we celebrated the 16th year of that partnership, a year that added many more happy memories to our life together from producing plays, happy holidays and watching the Olympics.

2012 has been a really good year and there is much to be thankful for. I hope 2013 proves to be just as fruitful.

Wishing you all a Happy New Year

I Love Australia

Posted in Theatre, Ticketing, Travel with tags , on October 20, 2012 by richardhowle

I am currently  sitting in an airport lounge, a glass of Shiraz by my side waiting to fly back home from a country I love, Australia.

I am lucky that my work has provided me with lots of opportunities to travel but, although I have been in here several times before, I was last in Australia in 2008. It is a fantastic country that feels like a home from home. The setting is spectacular, the weather is fantastic, the atmosphere is relaxed and the people are polite, courteous and incredibly friendly.

Like all my previous trips this was a flying visit, in and out for a week, but I would love to come here properly, on holiday, to really get to know the place.  I am very lucky in that over the years I have made some good friends, both whilst I have been here and in London, who have always looked after me when I have travelled Down Under, shown me great hospitality – but I would really love to travel here with Paul and experience the joys of this fantastic country without having to dash from meeting to meeting.

This trip started in Melbourne, where arriving on a Sunday night ahead of a Monday morning start is a fantastic way to beat the jet lag, which I have thankfully (on the whole) managed to avoid. aka now have two offices in Australia, one in Melbourne and one in Sydney – in Melbourne I was there to do some consultancy for one of our clients,  the Arts Centre Melbourne.

It was also an opportunity to catch up with a couple of ticketing types from London who have now relocated to the city, Damian Murphy – formerly of Ticketmaster and Dawn Walker – formerly of the Victoria Palace Theatre. It was a lovely  evening, great to catch up with old friends and to visit bars and restaurants that I would never discovered as a tourist.

I was also able to spend some time with the incredibly talented Kendra Reid, who runs aka Australia, and her wonderful partner John Lloyd Fillingham. John is an old friend of Paul’s and his name has been part of our relationship for the past 16 years, so it was great to finally meet this man who Paul holds in such high regard. Another fantastic night. I was also able to catch up with Brett Haylock, the genius creative  producer of one of my all time favourite shows, La Soiree, which has just opened in Melbourne. Late night drinks with him and some of the La Soiree acts meant for a fuzzy head the next morning, but it was definitely worth it.

Then, before I knew it, it was time to depart for Sydney to spend time in aka’s newest office which is headed up by my fantastic friend, Amy Maiden. I was really excited to get there, much as I like Melbourne, I LOVE Sydney. It really is my kind of town. In my view, if you were to design a perfect city, you would design Sydney. Not only is it set in spectacular surrounding, never far from the water – it also has a really easy vibe about it. The city motto could almost be “G’day mate – do you fancy a beer”. It really is a kick off your shoes and relax type of place, even if you are there on business.

Alongside London and New York, Sydney is my favourite city in the world.

After a couple of days of  meetings, including with our clients Global Creatures (who are the producers of Walking with Dinosaurs, are producing War Horse in Australia, have just launched their new musical King Kong and are in pre production for Strictly Ballroom), my working week was over.

But I still had a day left and what a day it was. Meeting up with ex -London aka-er Yolande Phillips and her gorgeous daughter Elouise, we joined the beautiful Angela Gahan and her family to spend a day on their boat in the harbour. It was a glorious day, sun shining, temperature in the low 30’s and Sydney looking spectacular. Drinking champagne with fantastic friends as we motored through one of the world’s greatest natural harbours in beautiful weather I struggled to think if life could get any better than this. There was just one way it could be, if Paul had been there too.

Why I work in the theatre

Posted in Theatre with tags , on October 4, 2012 by richardhowle

I am really lucky to work in theatre. So many people do soul destroying jobs in industries that they hate or that no one cares about. But theatre means so much to so many people. People get so passionate about it. It is easy to forget that for many going to see a show is something special, a real treat, something glamorous and special that will stay in their memory for a long time. I am lucky enough to be a small cog in the machine that provides that.

And I AM lucky – thousands want to work in theatre and many do not get the opportunity as I witnessed this week. I arrived at the London Palladium on a (very) wet Monday morning to find an enormous queue for the open auditions for the upcoming production of A Chorus Line. This was, of course, very much life imitating art – the audition process being the subject of the show – but here, first hand was what it was all about. A dedication and a passion to perform that meant hundreds of people standing in the rain for hours, just for the opportunity to try and perform on the London stage.

In the dry of the stalls as I watched the first 50 nervous hopefuls take to the stage,the tension was palpable – without being too X Factor – this was their moment. It is a tough brutal business – step forward, say your name, perform two pirouettes. That was is it, the qualifying standards were high, fewer than 50% made it through to the next round. Thank you. Goodbye. Queuing since 5am, perform for 30 seconds and it is all over. But, it is their dream, their passion – it’s worth the wet, cold and boredom if you get through. My hat goes off to all those who gave it a go.

Then, last night, I was reminded why I love this business so much when I was lucky enough to attend the sensational National Theatre production of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night at the Cottesloe Theatre. As I said on Twitter afterwards – it was one of the theatrical highlights of my life.

Because of my job I see a lot of theatre, and often going to the theatre can feel like work. For that reason those that know me know that I am quite a tough judge of what I see on stage – it takes a lot to impress me these days. Last night I was more than impressed, I was blown away by an amazing piece of theatre.

My partner, Paul had been badgering to see it for someone time, he had not only loved the book but had recently worked with play’s leading actor Luke Treadaway (on a film called Wasteland – featuring at the London Film Festival, get your tickets), but it had sold out, so he was thrilled when I was able to get my hands on a precious pair of tickets. It did not disappoint. Those that have read the book (I haven’t ) will know the powerful story and unique style and will fear as to how it can translate to the stage. Don’t fear – it does. The theatricality is brilliant, often simple – but enormously effective. The cast are sensational, the staging imaginative, the multi media set and lighting help paint the pictures and the adaptation delivers. The result is a piece of theatre that will stay with me for some time, it made me laugh and turned me into a blubbering wreck. Some have said that it is a little too long, but for me I didn’t want it to end.

It also did one other thing – remind me why I work in theatre.