Theatre how can we get as many supporters as football?

Convener: Leila Crerar

Participants: Nigel Richards, Josh Neicho, Hugh Hayes, Chris Wootton, Sam Sampson, Jen Pearcy- Edwards, Jo Turner, (didn’t get all names, if you attended could you add them) 

Summary of discussion, conclusions and/or recommendations:

  1. How can we get the same support for theatre in this country as we do for football?
  2. Do we need to change the mold of theatre how can it be more competitive with Film/Sport/Television.
  3. How do we get bums on seats, without sacrificing our artist integrity?
  4. How to make shows without stars that pay for themselves? 

The discussion:

We began by discussing football v theatre: 

What is the thrill we get when watching our football team play? The unpredictability of not knowing whether they will Win or Loose. The live event.

It was suggested Football is shorter 90 min; there was a discussion about the length of theatre perhaps being too long.  Most other forms of entertainment that Theatre competes with Film/TV/sport are shorter than the conventional theatre piece.

We talk about the culture of football in our society. Being bred into football from a young age.  Meaning that you have an unbreakable loyalty towards a team.  Wouldn’t it be great if theatre could achieve this?

Football has a permanence that theatre doesn’t have, live event sense of belonging, supporters for life.  You know when you go to a match you might be the one to see that special goal, that you can talk about, a moment that can’t be repeated.

The group discussed that theatre could make more of the live element

Rehearsed in mistakes, the audience love to witness something going wrong, assurance that’s a live unique event. 

It’s more human; it makes us feel like life.

Playful/improvisation, element of risk and danger.  Theatre could imbrace this risk.

People should feel they could walk out of the theatre if they want to.

It’s a good thing if they do walk out, at least they are not passive, and they feel moved enough to walk out.

We use to have that sense of consistency in Rep where people would go and see the same actors in different parts.  This creates a feeling of supporting the actors like you would a football team.  You have a loyalty towards the cast and you invest more in the actor’s performance.

You have to build this over years; the National theatre’s main objective is selling seats. Complicity, Improbable, Frantic Assembly have built up an audience, because of the consistent quality of their work.

Quality matters

This led us onto a discussion on how to get new audiences, selling shows and marketing:

Marketing needs a new fashionable/modern slant, using the Internet more and maximizing the using of social networking.

Taking the irreverence out of theatre, it needs to be more inclusive.

Theatre needs to be more of an event, rather than a performance, not just sitting in silence in the dark.  We talked about the rise of interactive/physical theatre, Punch Drunk with record ticket sales. 

They also have a massive queue outside, great marketing tool, like a trendy nightclub. The overall experience of punch Drunk is very different to your average theatre experience/environment audience seem to be very responsive to this.  As shown by the general increase of site-specific physical theatre.

Another area that could improve the theatre experience is making the theatre bar more accessible, turn it into somewhere you would want to hang out even if you weren’t going to the theatre. Like the Royal Court.  This goes back to the point about theatre being inclusive.  It’s important that the theatre building is not just the play.  It has to be inclusive/welcoming for a younger audience. 

The group then discussed Films v Theatre

With films you get a package. The audience knows what they’re going to get.  Risk keeps people away from theatre; generally they don’t like the unknown.   This is why we have seen a rise in Hollywood stars in the West end.

It’s about branding, you either need a star, a well-known play, or a reputation as a company, which has been built up over years. 

Making films back into theatre,

Shawshank Redemption, On the Waterfront. For the theatre producers they already know that these films have a proven audience that they will be able to sell tickets to.  This is the exact opposite of new writing.  The group did discuss that the UK needed more new writing theatre's.

 Ticket prices are too expensive, especially for a younger audience.  The fact that ticket prices are so high means that a lot of theatre will always remain for the middle classes.  This again went back to how exclusive theatre is at the moment. 

To sum up, we need to offer a unique high quality experience that neither film, TV, Internet, nor football can satisfy.

Where’s society heading and what is it interested in?

We live in a time of Roman theatre rather than Greek, the sensory rather than the idea.

Physical theatre needs a good story line, merging story telling with spectacular, the middle ground between pure text and pure visual.

Having a good story is something people will always come back to.

Yes I can watch spectacular physical/incilation piece and be moved in the moment, but not take anything away with me.

Yes like a big Mac, emidiate fill, but now I would like to go to a proper restraunt please.

Circus de Soliel without language speaks to everyone, sensory experience, unique, they cry because the beautiful possibility transcends things. To be reminded of angels. And its and experience you cannot get anywhere else.

Saturated community, compatition for attention, how do you generate a buzz?

Theatre needs to be true to itself, not become an extention of tv, a language that is complete, what can language provide that nothing else can. To find a theatrical language that is in its owe right, we find a vocabulary that is not competing with television/film.